Don’t hate me for my Greek villa. Hate me because I love my life.
It’s always nice to be home.
Melbourne in spring is always special. The season itself is lovely. Who doesn’t like flowers? But there’s this amazing feeling of a couple of million people emerging out from under a shared tyranny.
Winter. We made it. And like siege hostages shuffling out of the compound doors to greet the glaring sun and TV cameras, Melbournians step and stumble into spring, with a strong sense of camaraderie and civic pride.
I’m joining them in that warm sense of relief and achievement, but I’m not letting on that I buggered off to Greece for a good chunk of winter and spent most my days pissing about on boats and eating fresh-caught sea-food.
“Yes that winter was a doozy. Oh you got that flu too? Yes, thank the stars that spring is here. Aren’t the gerbera’s just lovely?”
And the procession of beauty and pleasure that my life seems to have become, continues.
I don’t like to go on about my lifestyle too much. I mean, I don’t want to be a wanker about it. I know that I got lucky. I put in some hard yards too, but even at the level of being born at the right place at the right time, I know fortune has had a hand in the life that I’ve been blessed with.
So I don’t want to be all, “ohh look at my Maserati and ocelot breeding program.” It’s poor taste when I know that there are others much less fortunate than I am. (And I know that because there have been times in my life where I’ve been a lot less fortunate than I am today too.)
But I also don’t want to go on about it because it’s just not the point.
Sure, I can trade a good chunk of Melbourne winter for a private yacht in the Greek islands, but at the end of the day, I’m just an average bloke doing average things – just with a little more freedom than most.
And if you’re measuring a life in pleasure, you’re measuring it wrong.
I mean there was a point there where I was sitting back on the deck, bbq octopus in one hand, a very drinkable white in the other, and I’m thinking, yep, this is the life.
But I wouldn’t want it to be my life. I would like my life to have moments like that on a regular basis, but I don’t want to be stuck on a boat for the rest of my days.
In the new field of “Happiness Studies” they say there’s two ways that we interpret the question “Are you happy?”
The first way is about where we sit on the pleasure/pain spectrum right now in this moment. This happiness is about how much we’re enjoying the right now.
“Well, maybe just a little top-up, Jeeves.”
The other perspective on happiness is about how satisfied we are with where our life is going? This is a much broader perspective, and it’s about our relationships, where we’re at in our career, how well we’ve done relative to others, and so on.
In this case, ‘are you happy?’ really means ‘do you like your life?’
(This is what the psychologists say. Read Daniel Kannehman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. It will change your life.)
What’s interesting is that while these are wildly different ideas – How much pleasure do I feel now?, and Do I like my life? – we lump them both together in a box called ‘happiness’.
This seems to lead to a lot of confusion. It’s like a lot of people are trying to create life-happiness, by focusing on moment-happiness.
So I need a bigger tv, better shoes, a hotter wife…
These things might bring you higher momentary pleasure, but they won’t make you feel better about your life.
Or if they’re trying to build a life they love, they try to create a life with lots of exotic holidays, cocktails and footrubs.
Focusing on those momentary pleasures won’t necessarily help you build a life you love. They often go together, but not always.
And there’s an opportunity lost. When you realise that you’re trying to build a life you love, there’s more scope to apply your considerable intellect to the task. To marry the means and the ends.
If you’re just trying to build a life with more opportunities for chocolate and exotic dances, there’s just confusion.
Or worse still, you end up with hollow victories. You find that for all the flashy cars and ocelots in the billiard room, you still feel miserable.
So if I talk about my lifestyle, I try to focus on the things I like about my life, not the things that bring me momentary pleasure.
And for me, that’s being my own boss. Having the freedom to go where I want and do what I want. It’s the satisfaction that comes with providing an awesome life for my family, and the beautiful connection I have with the wife and kids.
This is the stuff that matters. It just doesn’t lend itself as well to Instagram as an ocelot sitting in a Maserati.
And the advice that I would offer, is that life is a lot easier when you’re focused on the bigger picture – on life happiness. There are so many ways you can do something like “build connection with the kids”. With options comes freedom.
There’s only one way to actualise something momentary like ‘hot Jamacian dude massage’. With a lack of options comes frustration.
So relax. Relax your focus, and work on the broad sweep of your life. It is patient and gentle work. But the payoff is huge.
This is where enduring happiness comes from.
Apart from Spring, what are you ‘life-happy’ about?