My son is a big Jordan Peterson fan. So big, in fact, that he gifted my with Mr. P’s new book for my birthday.
“12 Rules For Life.”
I haven’t really tucked in yet, what with having the plague for almost three weeks and now preparing to move. But my son was excited to share a sneak preview with me a few days ago.
“This guy is truly brilliant mom,” he exclaimed eagerly, “and according to him the secret to happiness is setting goals and achieving them!”
And I’m like Oh really? I thought it was a nice cold Pinot Grigio and a puppy.
But then I got to thinking (but not too much) because my astute son went on enthusiastically (saving my somewhat mushy brain from further contemplation) – “You see happiness comes from fulfillment. And it order to get fulfilled you have to achieve something. And then best way to GET fulfilled to set a goal that’s important to you and then achieve it!”
Seems reasonable, right?
And yes, think I (unscrambling the mush to the best of my plagued ability), I DO feel happy when I have fulfilled a goal. Not just the everyday goals like say getting out of bed or brushing my teeth or not dropping the F-bomb more than ten times a day (never happens). I mean BIG goals. Like orchestrating my Christmas CD ten years ago. Wrangling talent and sponsorship and writing a few new songs and then making it happen and then ultimately raising over $10,000 for charities. THAT was a big fat bucket of fulfillment. And fun. And ultimately …. happiness.
When I did it (on a smaller scale) again last year with my latest record the feeling of gratification was no less profound. So far the beneficiary of my project has netted over $2,000 with a lifetime of proceeds still to come. It might only be another four bucks but I AM HAPPY. I crossed something else off my bucket list AND helped a worthwhile cause in the process.
The night we launched that CD at local jazz club I was exhilarated! Sure I was also exhausted and hungry but mostly I was happy. And the charity was over the moon.
“That’s how it works, Mom” continues my son. “Because the more you achieve your goals and the more you find your own personal fulfillment the more you are able to help others do the same. Which just adds to you own fulfillment and happiness.”
Well dangnabbit if that isn’t just the darnedest thing. Because I have actually long suspected that fact. I take great delight in helping other people. Sure, friends and family but also musicians and struggling artists; people who have chosen the most difficult career path on the planet (The Arts!) and face rejection and disillusion and exclusion daily. If I can help, I will. And if their product (never them, their PRODUCT) isn’t up to snuff (in my professional opinion) I will try to gently convey that info and then offer constructive criticism how to get it there.
And when I have achieved that goal, that goal of helping or guiding or tenderly telling the truth I feel blessedly happy. As opposed to when I lounge on the sofa reading a magazine eating bon bons. Sure we all need those moments every now and then – let’s call them RECHARGE opportunities – but I don’t think they really make us happy. They just fuel us up for the next goal. And the next achievement.
Sure, I know a lot of folks will say “Wrongo Buddy, I am perfectly happy sitting under a palm tree accomplishing nothing and sipping a rum punch!” Yep, I get that, but you probably worked hard and saved money and accomplished many things in order to give yourself that luxury. So I offer that your ultimate euphoria stems from THAT accomplishment as much as from the tropical breeze.
My son finished our conversation by sharing with me his most recent personal revelation. As an emerging artist himself, struggling to break out of the pack, make a living and still have a life, it seemed like 25 hours in a day would never be enough. But suddenly he found himself with a couple of open mornings. No work, no meetings, he had clean clothes and the house was tidy enough. “I’m going to sleep in!” he thought with glee. Two days of sleeping in will make me SO happy.”
They did not. So on the second day he woke up early and started building his own website. From scratch. And he spent 10 hours in a row tapping into his high school graphics curriculum and ya know what? For a first stab my boy built himself a damn fine website. One that will only get better with tweaks and refinements and fine-tuning.
And that morning at 4am he sent an email to his father and me and said “Work ethic is good.” And he was happy.
Holy fuck (oops, that’s one) I was SO very proud of my boy. For the goal that he set, for what he accomplished, for what he realized and for what he taught his momma too.
When I looked at the clock today at 4pm I thought “Hmmmm … whatever shall I now do? Pour a glass and start cooking? Pour a glass and just drink it enjoying some music? Pour a glass and chat with my beloved?”
No. I decided to write this blog.
Okay, okay … with a glass.
But the truth is I always feel good when I finish writing. When I clarify my thoughts, put them to paper and share them with the world I always feel BETTER. It matters not if only 3 people read my musings. The “ripple effect” can be energizing and satisfying. But on a personal level it’s all about me creating an intention, discharging it and … tasting the result.
Goal accomplished. Fulfillment achieved.