Are Your Priorities Hurting Your Happiness?
BY TAYLOR WADE
If you had to choose between your dream job, living in the perfect city, or being with the love of your life, which would you choose? Do you think your priorities are correctly correlated with the outcome you envision for your life?
We organize and departmentalize our lives into categories and assign a ranking of which are most important and should receive the most attention. We all do it. But what if our unconscious decisions are creating an unwanted effect on our lives? What if our daily habits do not match our ultimate goal?
Let's take three aspects of life: career, location, and love; and evaluate the weight each one carries in the life of the average person. We view these factors in regard to how much they influence your daily life and how they are either improving – or hurting – your overall level of happiness.
The average American works 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 672 hours a month, and 8,064 hours a year. That is about 24% of your life.
24% is a good chunk of your life. Ideally, this time should be spent doing something you enjoy. When the mind is actively involved in stimulating work, the ‘pleasure center’ of the brain is activated, releasing dopamine – a.k.a. - good feelings. When you choose work that is challenging, new regional activity in the brain is developed, allowing you to become sharper, more engaged, and ultimately feel more content at the end of the day.
While you need mental stimulation and passion in life in order to feel good about yourself, and to attract and sustain a happy relationship, it's not everything. We are social beings and need human interaction in order to feel affirmed, accepted and loved. Being married to your job can be lonely – and loneliness can have horrible implications on emotional and physical health.
It’s great to prioritize your career at a certain stage in your life, however, be careful you don’t wake up one morning thirty years from now and realize you don’t have anyone with whom to share your success.
Your environment determines what you see, what you do, and the people with whom you interact every single day.
Your entire life is bundled into your city. Whether it is interacting with the locals, being impacted by the climate that is literally hovering over you, or seeing that beautiful mountain (or eyesore of a building) from your kitchen window on a daily basis, you are surrounded by your environment every single day.
The culture of a city will draw a certain type of crowd, thus creating its own personality. Whether you are kicking back enjoying the local brewery and rock climbing in Boulder, or kissing, I mean kicking ass on Wall Street, and whether or not this lifestyle agrees with your personal culture, will have an impact on you as a person.
For example, when living in Canada, I was surrounded by like-minded people who loved being active in the outdoor playground that comprises the city of Vancouver. When I moved to NYC, I felt as if my outdoor playground of mountains and forests was replaced by a concrete jungle of high-rises and trash-littered alleyways. New York did not agree with me.
However, what if you had your dream job and the love of your life, but lived in an incompatible city? When your mind is actively involved in something with which you are zealous, and you are interacting with supportive, like-minded people, your sense of environment can shift. Your mind associates good feelings with your surroundings. Have you ever had a bad experience in a specific place, and find it extremely difficult to return to that place without re-experiencing those bad feelings? It’s the same exact thing in reverse.
Your significant other may be more encompassing than your physical or work environment. This is the person with whom you wake up, fall asleep, and interact with on a daily basis. This person’s words and attitude can make or break you…
Who you end up with at the end of the day is monumental. Whatever happens to you, at work or in your daily life, can be degraded, justified, or dramatically uplifted depending on the words of your support system - your significant other. Sure, your support system may also include your friends and family, however, the person with whom you share your life - your supposed ‘other half’ - will and should have an influence on how you perceive events occurring in your life. Your partners’ outlook on life and general attitude will make or break you.
You can have an amazing job, live in the most beautiful place on earth, and none of it will matter if you don’t have the right person with whom to share it. Nevertheless, you need a person who will push you forward, support you, and encourage you to achieve all of the goals you set in your heart. Therefore, finding a genuine, loving, optimistic, and encouraging significant other to share your life takes the cake on this one.
Just remember: you cannot count on this person to be your source of happiness. When you have each found an inner peace and sense of self, this can create the right environment for a healthy love to grow. Hence, it’s important to always continue to be passionate in your work, your life, and to never stop improving the love between you and your other half.
In conclusion, you have to have balance in your life - a passion, a reason to live, a goal or a project to which you aspire. However, at the end of the day, we all want someone in our life to confirm our success, comfort our failures, and share our experiences.
When I was deciding where to move post-graduation, I chose Vancouver for the beauty and quality of life. However, with the continuous clouds and rain, I seemed to sink into a depression. A year later, when I decided to try New York for grad school, my main reasons included being close to my brother and best friend.
Something was still missing. Somewhere in between dropping out of grad school and moving to Spain (another story), I met someone who changed my perspective and made me recognize the missing component. I hadn’t been in a relationship in six years, because I was always traveling and moving from place to place, dependent on a city’s culture, climate, or job prospects to satisfy my needs.
However, after living in the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen, studying my passion at an amazing school, and living abroad in a completely foreign and exciting country, I still seemed to be missing one thing: that one person to share my life.