I’m sitting in my front room, the fire dying out in the fireplace behind me, and I’m participating in a workshop about “Learning to Fully Charge Your Battery” (because I really need MORE energy…ha ha ha).
And the moderator/Instructor asked this question: Do you focus a lot of energy on doing things that boost your own happiness?
I paused the lecture and…not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES…I rewound that section to hear him ask the question again.
I knew exactly what was coming. It’s something that I have been saying for years. It’s something that I have been emphasizing LOUDLY for 33 days.
Some of you may not be familiar with my Morning Coffee Videos that I live stream every morning (except Sunday) on my Facebook page. For over six months, I have been getting up and chatting to anyone who wants to listen (and maybe some who don’t!) about things that are important to me at that moment. Over 5 million people have been reached in that short amount of time. Amazing, isn’t it?
My husband often looks at me and says (which his deliciously adorable French accent), “I don’t know how you find things to talk about every day.”
And that brings me back to this lecture.
My life has changed since I have started doing the Morning Coffee Videos. I started them for fun during an amazing trip to Los Angeles with Cat and her friend Julia. I kept doing them because so many people seemed to like them. And then, somewhere along the way, everything changed. I realized that doing the morning coffee videos really made me happy. As I continue my journey away from the darkness of depression and into the light of life, I focus a lot of energy on being happy.
Which is why the lecturer’s question made me pause.
Because I knew exactly what he was going to say next.
“Those things are nowhere near as likely to improve my well-being or the well-being of others than the efforts that focus on improving the daily lot of another person.”
And he’s right.
The core of meaningful happiness is grounded in one and only one principle: giving and doing things for other people. The problem that often arises is that other people try to take advantage of that. In my life, that was a common thread. Over the years, this has been at the root of my depression: the disappointment I felt with people who saw my focus on giving as an invitation for them to just take.
You see, too often people focus not on what they can give but on their own personal gain. They do not look around and see how they can help other people achieve happiness or success. They only look at how they can achieve happiness. Period.
The secret that many people don’t understand–and the one that I struggled to accept– is that giving people can only give so much without getting something–even if it is only a boost to our own happiness!—in return.
Every morning, when I get up and start my morning routine, my thoughts are on my morning coffee live stream. What can I say? How can I reach people? Who might need a special thought today? It’s almost like a private dialogue that I have with God, asking him to help guide me to find the right words or topics to share with everyone who blesses me with their time by watching. There are some mornings when I have no idea what I will say until I am sitting there and the recorder goes live. Other mornings, I know exactly what needs to be said because the topic keeps racing through my mind.
Morning Coffee puts me on track to have a wonderful day because I focus my energy on doing something for other people. Whenever even one person messages me, thanking me for helping them through whatever was troubling them or telling me how much they enjoy my videos, my own happiness increases because I have helped another person. It’s exactly what the lecturer said.
Truly it is better to give than to receive, but there is no reason why we cannot do both. Giving does not have to operate in a silo. Happiness truly is a state of mind that we must decide to achieve. It is not marked by large moments in time but the smaller everyday things that contribute to our overall well-being. By focusing on ourselves, and not others, we will never truly achieve happiness.
It is only by shifting our attention to the needs of those around us and learning how to contribute to the happiness of others that we can actually develop a meaningful life.