Benjamin Coy



February 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

Today, violinist and music advocate Holly Mulcahy posted a blog entry about happiness. She’s absolutely right, and everyone should take a few minutes right now to read it. Mulcahy focuses on the interpersonal ramifications: how your happiness (or lack thereof) affects other people, and vice versa. I’d like to emphasize her first point about goals. She says: “individuals deprive or deny themselves of happiness until they have “made it.” … goals change sometimes, and sometimes the new goal becomes the new obstacle of happiness. It’s a vicious cycle.”

For instance, I was elated when I won my current position with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. However, this position does come with some challenges: for instance, it’s an hour away from where I live. The natural reaction is to recover from the happiness associated with having a professional performance and become frustrated with needing to spend two hours on the road for each two and a half hour rehearsal. It is very difficult to maintain happiness through the long run.

As Oscar Wilde famously stated, “The world belongs to the discontented.” Discontentment with the present situation leads people to seek something better, generate new ideas, and improve their world. But, discontentment is different from unhappiness. Happiness and discontentment can coexist. I am still very happy playing with the Springfield Symphony. Next weekend we’re going to perform Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony and violin concerto, and I’m really looking forward to making some great music. At the same time, I’m discontent with the juggling I have to do in my schedule to make the commute work. The discontentment inspires me to search for better professional solutions, but I try not to let it interfere with the happiness associated with what I’m already doing.

On a different level, there’s a real danger in denying happiness until a certain goal is reached. This attitude associates happiness with the goal and implies that accomplishing the goal will provide happiness. But, prior to reaching that goal, there is no data available to support that expectation. On the contrary, it is highly unlikely that any single goal will, by itself, make one happy. People aren’t that simple – humans have many needs, and meeting one need at the expense of all the others will end up making a person less happy, not more.

Be discontent. Do not languish where you currently are. Work hard to improve your situation. Seek that next opportunity. But along the way, acknowledge the parts of your life that are good. Recognize your prior achievements and the progress you’ve already made. Build on the foundation of the positive aspects of your life. Be happy.

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