In our culture we don’t spend much time thinking about happiness. It could be argued that happiness is the most important thing in life. It’s a universal good. Nobody has a personal definition for happiness that is a negative or something they want to avoid. Everyone wants happiness, however they define it.
What is amazing is, in Western culture at least, there doesn’t seem to be any time in life when people are formally encouraged to investigate what makes them happy. Twelve years of public school doesn’t offer any subjects in introspection or life planning or anything else that is clearly and overtly aimed at discovering what makes you happy in life. Almost all formal education is devoted to making people conform to whatever characteristics make them employable later in life.
Even parents (and I am one) seem to almost exclusively focus on encouraging their kids to seek stable employment above all other considerations. “Stay in school” and “Get a degree so you’ll get a good job,” are such common advice that they are always considered politically correct and completely uncontroversial. It’s seems stable employment is prized over the focused pursuit of personal happiness. How many kids here, “Think for yourself and do what’s best for you. Don’t get manipulated by authority figures.”
When you think of all the hours devoted to school lessons, school sports and time with friends and family, the absence of time spent seriously contemplating the nature and sources of your happiness becomes screamingly obvious.
A high school student spends about 800 hours studying math alone. That’s on top of a couple thousand hours of math before getting to high school. In all those years how many hours are devoted to discovering, understanding and planning his or her path to happiness? Close to zero, maybe? Wow.
Math study: 3,000 hours.
Personal Happiness study: 0 hours.
Hey, could that turn a person into a worker drone who’s conditioned to just do what he’s told?
Who came up with that plan? Who does it serve? Are we raised to live life on our terms or on someone else’s terms? Are we working every day to fulfill our own well-defined desires or someone else’s?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.