The Difference Between Fun and Happiness
I didn’t get a blog post done last weekend. I put in about 28 hours editing my book manuscript – before sending it off to the copy editor. I had an ache in my neck and was going stir-crazy as the evening went on…and on. I finished on Sunday night around midnight and made a PDF copy to send in the morning… I dragged myself into the shower at 1 am for some hot water therapy. I couldn’t have been happier. I was euphoric.
I was remembering an article a friend passed on to me in the late 80’s. It was called “The Secret to Real Happiness” and it really stuck with me. The author, Dennis Prager, talked about how some people equate real “happiness” with “having fun”. He felt that they had little or nothing in common; nothing to do with each other.
Fun, he said, is what we experience during an act, and happiness is what we experience after an act – a much deeper, abiding emotion.
Sports activities, parties, watching movies are all fun activities that make us forget our troubles, make us laugh and help us de-stress. But they don’t contribute to real happiness because the fun ends when they end.
When we see celebrities and the mega rich partying, driving around in expensive cars, living in glamourous places we may think, “wow… wouldn’t that be nice – I’d be so happy” but memoir after memoir from these same people informs us that it is not necessarily so.
Believing that a fun-filled, pain-free life will bring happiness must then mean, conversely, that pain must bring unhappiness. Typically this is not true. Quite often things that lead to happiness usually involve some pain. And, by avoiding pain or struggle, we lose out on some of the greatest sources of happiness in life: marriage, raising children, professional development and achievement, self-improvement, civic or charitable work.
I love to have fun, joking and laughing with friends, dancing, playing games, watching funny movies. But I know that these don’t contribute to my overall happiness. Raising my son, being in relationships full of integrity, taking on challenging projects at work, and working on this book project…have brought me incredible amounts of happiness that continue to build.
Understanding this can liberate us…we may feel more generous with our time pursuing some of these tougher challenges, we may be less pressured to spend on things that will not contribute to our happiness, and we may rid ourselves of any envy we have for those with lots of toys, money and a scintillating social life.
It helps us lead our life differently and can contribute to much satisfaction. This really helps me when I’m exhausted or when I have to tackle something that is really tough: whether it is speaking my truth or rolling up my sleeves in the office.
I have been working on the book for three years, plugging away doing photo shoots, writing, re-writing, designing and re-designing. We are getting near the end, but this last bit is challenging, time consuming, a lot of work, and a lot of hours…
I’m amazed at the happiness it is already bringing: a sense of pride and accomplishment. Similar to that amazing feeling when you reach the mountain summit on a long grinding hike, cross a marathon finish line, or graduate from a program. Not always a lot of fun during the journey but oh, such joy and real happiness in the end.
Wish me luck. Another month of filling in the blanks, the last photos to shoot, copy edits, then a month of back and forth proofing before going to the printer in April. Much happiness to come.