Do our goals motivate or make us less happy?
In a world that never seems to sleep, we are constantly entertained by the idea that we can do things better and faster. As I walked through the streets of New York recently, I found myself rushing while walking and even when ordering a meal. Time is money in that city. Its allure brings a sense of adventure, intrigue and opportunities. An opportunity to win big could even mean that we stop living our lives for a couple years while working for our goal. As men and women rushed by me on the streets to make it to their destinations, I wondered where they were rushing to and how much time we have wasted trying to attain our goals. Does wishing we were younger, richer or even happier motivate us or simply make us less happy?
On my visit to New York, I met a doctor who worked at a hospital there. Her hard work through years of medical school and living on a student income had finally led to her goal of becoming a physician. She has been able to help many men, women and children and has truly made a difference. She’s even found love and is getting married. So when I asked if she would do it all over again if given the chance, I was surprised to hear her say “No.” She reached everything she thought she hoped for, but it was at a price. She described her greatest loss as time lost with her loved ones and most importantly with herself.
We think there is always something that will make us happier because we want something to live for. When we become caught up with attaining that goal, we forget to live. We lose the kind of connection in our lives that brightens up our day and reminds us that we are not guaranteed the time on earth to reach our goals. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when we are too focused on something—even if it’s good. We may think that what we don’t have will make us happier and that those who have that are happy. However, as that very doctor has clearly illustrated it’s not the case for all people. Few people want to make a lot of money just to be alone. We seek connection and support from others and we lose that when we are consumed by a busy life.
The truth is that a healthy relationship has little to do with time and everything to do with the willingness for you to put time into it. Couples with children and a career are undoubtedly putting their time into these areas, leaving them with little energy to focus on much else. As a result, the relationship often suffers. Both partners secretly agree that the feeling is mutual because enough time has now past that they are lost on how to reconnect with each other. The willingness to exert energy on how to reconnect now seems like a daunting task they put off until a later time. But these are often opportunities for reconnection that may end up enriching not just your relationship but your own self if the willingness to communicate is acted upon.
It’s easy to think the grass is greener on the other side. I chose to focus on the many beautiful things that New York has to offer such as its beautiful parks, art, museums and theatre. This would have otherwise been overshadowed if I chose to engage my time and energy focusing on just having a good time rather than being in the moment. You begin to live in colour when you live in the moment. The fact is every person has sacrificed something in order to be where he or she is, including the most wealthy and beautiful people. At the end of the day, the division between the poor and the rich teaches us an important lesson. When we lose sight of what truly makes us happy and work takes over “the poor die and the rich never live.” What is your time worth and what do you choose to do with it?
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.