Saturday, 5 September 2015

the purpose of life

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I'm a big fan of being happy. I really believe that there is an awful lot to be happy about if you look around you. We live in a beautiful country and have more than we need. We're healthy and our children are doing well - life is pretty good.

That being said, there are still times when happiness is a little hard to come by. Society as a whole tells us that happiness is the ultimate goal and when you are happy you have everything. But there have to be times when we are less than happy and times when things get tough. There are always checks and balances in life and none of us get a free ride.

Ralph Waldo Emerson sees things from this perspective - his quote above sums up the idea that there is much more to life than just seeking to be happy. We should also be thinking about making a worthwhile contribution to the world around us - maybe it's not always "about me" and maybe it's about leaving a legacy of worthwhile actions.

It would be nice to skip through life, singing and dancing, living in a world of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. It is much harder to be honorable and compassionate and focused on others as well as ourselves, but these are such deep and enriching attributes that we would miss out on if we selfishly live just for our own pleasure. Happiness can be quite a shallow goal - it is easy to buy stuff or to be selfish and be quite happy, it is harder to think of others and feel their pain and come along side them and show care and compassion.

It can be a fairly tough call to act honorably in a situation where it is easy to seek your own happiness first rather than the welfare of someone else. I've been around long enough to see friends do fairly despicable things and the betrayal that comes from a "friend" is the worst kind. Our society is very "me" focused now days and nobody looks twice at someone who climbed to the top at the expense of others. I think that seeking the best for others - even if you have to do it at your own expense - makes for a much better world to live in. 

To have lived and lived well is going to be my ongoing mantra - to be able to look back on my life and know that I lived the best life I could, that I did no harm to others for my own benefit and to know that my life and decisions contributed to making the world even a little better would be a great legacy to leave. This is something that I am going to have to remind myself of regularly because it so easy to get caught up in the hoopla of the day to day search for bigger and better. Good old Ralph Waldo had something to say about legacies too and I'll leave it to him to wrap this up....

#midlife blog crestingthehill.com.au

33 comments:

  1. Love the Emerson quote. Finding useful, productive work has been vital to overcoming depression for me.

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    1. so glad you're finding a way through Cindy - I think feeling that you have a purpose is a key to that :)

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  2. So much has been written about the passing of Wayne Dyer. The Emerson quote comes to mind when I think of him. I hope he knew how many lives breathed easier because of the path he chose.

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    1. Yes Brenda - he certainly impacted a lot of lives - (including a lot of bloggers' lives) and living with purpose and positivity was key.

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  3. Hi Leanne! That Emerson quote has been one of my favorites my entire life. And I so agree about your more "defined" definition of happiness. It is somewhat easy to forget that happiness is more than mere pleasure. That's why so often the word "well-being" more fully describes the experience. But I always appreciated the work of a guy named Barry Neil Kaufman who very clearly said that we don't need to feel guilty about being happy either. There are lots and lots of extremely selfish people who are bitter and depressed too. When you think about it from that perspective, happiness and selfishness are comparing apples and oranges. I believe it is possible to be kind, compassionate and purposeful to all and at the same time be happy. Actually, that's pretty much what I call SMART :-) ~Kathy

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    1. I agree Kathy - it's about focus and having an innate sense of who you are and your place in the world and then moving outwards from there. Happiness is a vital component to that because without it we drain ourselves trying to be all things to all people.

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  4. Great reminder about happiness Leanne. Many people are always striving 'to be happy' and not realizing that it is really up to them and the choices they make.

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    1. I think we want to have the perfect sunshiny life Sue and forget that what we experience is often due to how we choose to contribute and interact with our world.

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  5. Following on from our previous comments, I agree Leanne. Life is what you make it and we aren't here for just ourselves. We can find happiness in giving and helping others. Sometimes this gets lost in the hectic world we live. Thanks for sharing at #AnythingGoes link up

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    1. my pleasure Sue - I love the #AnythingGoes linky!

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  6. What a wonderful way to remind people of how life should be viewed. I have often felt that true happiness comes from self-respect, which is hard won

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    1. I agree Lata - showing self respect and being respectful of others is certainly a worthy way to live life!

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  7. What great ennobling thoughts. Something I once read left a great impression on me. It was a grave inscription from a great king long ago. Said something like: 'I have not detoured a river from its course'. Your message says the same thing on a smaller scale. Do no harm is one step toward doing good.

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    1. so true Francene - if we all smoothed each other's way and stopped climbing over the top of each other, the world would be a better place!

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  8. dropping in from WT! Loves the quotes you shared.. they are new to me! They indeed strike a chord...

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    1. thanks Mina - I found them to be quite relevant for living life today - even though they were written quite some years ago.

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  9. Growing up, I had Emerson's definition of success up on my pin board for the longest time, Leanne. Reading it again today, made me happy to see that some of it has been true of my life.

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    1. It's a good thought to have achieved even a small part of this Corinne - so many people today are disregarding others, to live well you need to look beyond just your own needs.

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  10. I have been working really hard on being more positive and happy. Happiness, however, has a different definition for each person. Happiness to me may be helping someone else before me while someone else feels happiness is just focused totally on themselves. I agree that society is so self-centered. I just saw a quote the other day that is so true: I rather have an honest enemy than a fake friend. True and true...I'm so tired of the fake people out there. I'm all about quality not quantity...I rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies:)

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    1. I am so with you on that Kim - I have started distancing myself from a few "friends" who I just don't completely trust. I'd rather invest my time in the ones who are authentic and honest. Happiness definitely has to come from within ourselves and our definition of happiness should be based on our values (which is why there's some dodgy definitions out there!) thanks for adding to the conversation :)

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  11. Absolutely love this, Leanne!
    Here's to our mutual success as seen by RWE!

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    1. Wow he has his own initials now (I bet he'd feel chuffed if he was around to read this!) thanks Diane :)

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  12. Nice quotes Leanne. It's hard to be honourable and compassionate in addition to concentrating on keeping ourselves happy. Being happy and positive is good, but never thought that it will be selfish if we cannot help anyone.

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    1. I agree that we can't help everyone Mahathi - I suppose it's just about making a difference where you can and looking outside your own life to think about others too

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  13. Beautiful quotes, Leanne.
    I'm all for being useful. We are who we are, so different from each other, to complete one another. We are enough and we make a difference.
    Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. thanks Debbie - I love that we complement each other and we can invest in other people and make a difference that in turn increases our own happiness.

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  14. Well said Leanne, and an admirable philosophy. Life is always full of challenge, but I hope to also leave the same legacy that you describe.

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    1. thanks Susan - I'm sure you already make a difference in people's lives and I think we just build on that as we have more time available to invest

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  15. A terrific point Leanne. We need to quit concentrating on ourselves and focus on making the outside world a little better off.

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    1. thanks Rena - you would be my shining example for this - and btw your new blog is lovely

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  16. We just watched Inside Out and then I read this post. We all go through our ups and downs, but in the end we all have to realise what matters to us most, and to stop thinking that others have it better!

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    1. I watched that recently too Agy and it is a good example of how we complement each other and how loving each other sees us through the difficult times

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  17. Just today, I saw that Kathy Chester has shared the shorter quote on Women of Midlife group. Here are my thoughts on this: happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness is fleeting. Rarely can someone be happy all the time. But can they be joyful? Yes. Life can and does knock us, but we can learn to ride the knocks with a joy that we are living. And I do love a life well lived.

    I have had many challenges including my daughter's autism and divorce. But this does not mean I cannot live life well and to savor the joy of living.

    Good thoughts!

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