By Rob Shaul
I end up doing quite a bit of life counseling in my job, for whatever reason.
Part of the issue is the make-believe world of this resort town I live in. Many know Jackson as the “black hole of ambition” – new college graduates move here right after college to spend a summer waiting tables or a winter ski bumming, and pretty soon they are 30 years old, still working in a restaurant or bumping chairs at the resort, living with 4 roommates, but know something isn’t right.
What was cool and free at 22, is simply irresponsible and sad at 32.
It’s not just millennials. Recently the New York Times did a profile piece on “Self Help Guru Jake Altucher” – 48, like me, who owns just 15 items and spends his life couch surfing or in Air B&B places. (Original Article)
I remember reading the “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris when it first came out. Ferris hocked nutritional supplements and advocated a life of as little commitment as possible. This was years ago, but even then something didn’t sit right with me and this approach to life.
Certainly, every person needs to choose their own life. But in making that decision for myself, I looked not to bloggers, self-help gurus or even my peers, but much older people – 30-50 years my senior.
The happiest, most content, most accomplished but also the most humble, older people, have these things in common:
- A long-term relationship
- A deep, rewarding career which was bigger than themselves
- A love of where they lived.
These seniors aren’t bitter, anxious, or disengaged. They’ve found solace and fulfillment. They are genuinely happy.
Their examples and my own experience have led me to believe the best things come from commitment – to a relationship, career or profession, and place.
During my unofficial life counseling sessions, I counsel the lost souls that three things make you happy:
- Being around people you love
- Doing work you love
- Living in a place you love.
If you can get 2 out of 3, you’re doing well. Three out of 3 and you’ve hit the jackpot.
All three take commitment.
- Commitment to a person = no more searching for prince or princess charming.
- Commitment to a career = no more service jobs which require limited thinking and not real effort, or bouncing between “interesting” jobs every year or so.
- Commitment to a place = no more bouncing around from town to town, but rather investing in a community
Often, commitment = focus, work, paying your dues. Falling down, getting up. Experiencing and overcoming disappointment and failure. Forgiving others and yourself. Pushing aside what you want now, for what you want most, later.
Commitment = Not “finding” happiness, but building it, one brick at a time.
Not experiencing happiness through a vacation or trek, but creating, and owning it right where you are, every day.
Many of the young people I counsel think commitment is the opposite of freedom. That’s backward in my experience.
Deciding on a partner, committing to a career, and setting down roots in a place/community is liberating. No more wasted energy doubting your decisions. No more unproductive thoughts looking at greener grass somewhere else. No more being buffeted around by wishes and whims and thinking small. With commitment comes control of your own life, and happiness.
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