Dear Next Generation: ‘Don’t Focus on Your Own Happiness’

February 8, 2021 Updated: February 8, 2021

Dear Next Generation,

Your generation receives endless messages about how important it is to arrange your circumstances to suit you, and you are told that this will make you happy.

You are told to resent authority and worship your dreams. You are told that you should be “heard,” even if it means silencing others. You are told that disagreement is dangerous. Our culture not only legitimatizes but applauds selfish lifestyle choices that wreak chaos on friends and family. You are growing up in a self-obsessed culture. The strange thing is, the more you pursue your own happiness, the more fearful and lonely you become.

Think about your friends who struggle constantly with anxiety and depression. Do they spend a lot of time thinking about how they feel, constantly critiquing and giving their opinion, seeking attention, complaining, wishing, and focusing on what they don’t have? Maybe this is you, especially if you were raised by people who were led to believe that their job was to prevent you from ever being disappointed or frustrated.

If you want to break this cycle of self-centeredness and misery, here’s the key. Don’t focus on your own happiness. Think about two or three of the most contented, happiest, beloved people you know, and ask them three questions: Do you have high self-esteem? What do you do for self-care? What do you want most for your children? Chances are, you’ll get a quizzical look for the first two questions, and for the last question, you will not hear, “I just want them to be happy.” They’ll say, “I want them to be good people.” Because they know that good people are always happy, but happiness is not the point.

The secret is that these people—the ones who make the world a better place, the ones who serve others, who live within their budget, who maintain long-term relationships, who do what they should do regardless of how they feel, who are faithful in their marriages and their relationship with God, who make sensible decisions, who give to the poor, who are genuinely interested in others—these people don’t spend time thinking about themselves or whether or not they are happy.

As they work hard, do the right thing, and put others first, they live very happy, satisfying lives. Their lives are contented, joyful, and filled with people who adore them.

The irony is, your happiness has nothing to do with you. Let that sink in for a minute. If you understand what it means, and you’re ready to take your focus off yourself, you need to know that self-absorption is not a personality style, and it’s not a mental health condition. It’s a choice.

Breaking the cycle of self-indulgence, self-pity, and sadness will not happen quickly. Our thought patterns are habits formed from repetition. But as you develop new habits by repeatedly choosing action over moping, forgiveness over complaining, and focusing on others over yourself, you’ll find that a great weight is lifted.

And that will make you very happy.

Lisa Woody
Argyle, Texas

What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

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