The Case for Teaching Human Happiness in School (and at work)
Math. English. Science. History. Finance. All important and useful subjects (some, more than others…) that we all learn during our tenure in the American school system.
A relatively efficient workforce emerges who are prepared to fit into their societal role of producing content, work, services, products, or anything of the like that helps to keep the economical wheel turning. Monetary compensation for your time and effort gives you the ability to purchase similar products and services from your peers.
A seemingly cyclical system built off of a seemingly sustainable model, yet, so many people are unsatisfied and unhappy as a result of it. Why?
As biological animals, we have evolved over millions of years to be hunters and gatherers. We did not evolve to sit 8 hours a day. We did not evolve to stare at a screen of blue light for 10 hours. And, we did not evolve to place materialism over morality.
Yet — here we are.
A society of consumers does not have to be an unhappy one. We can enjoy the finer things in life while sharing in meaningful relationships built through communication and connection. The problem is, we just assume this connection is supposed to happen out of nowhere while we magically click into life-long relationships and friendships like puzzle pieces that never separate. We just assume by accumulating the most stuff or keeping up with the latest technology, we are going to feel fulfilled and satisfied in our lives.
This is like trying to run a car on a gas tank full of water — just because it’s full, doesn’t mean it’s got the RIGHT fuel in it.
There is no fulfillment to be had by dressing up our outer shell in the latest fashions and expecting it to seep through our pours into our hearts and souls, creating a true happiness. It doesn’t work that way.
What we do crave, is human intimacy. Emotional connection with others. Emotional connection with ourselves. Fulfillment of our dreams and a goal to strive towards. We are hamsters on a wheel chasing a carrot that we will never catch. And even if we did, it wouldn’t make a difference because the carrot is not what we really want.
Particularly in America, we associate material possessions with happiness, and this is part of the problem. We can continue to chase after these accomplishments all we want, but until we find the fulfillment within ourselves first, the rest of it will begin to fade after awhile. We are losing touch of what makes us human and attempting to replace it with a facade that simply looks the same, but isn’t.
For any of us who have ever set out to accomplish a goal, and actually did it — what happened then? Were you suddenly happy, fulfilled, and ‘complete’? Perhaps for a time, until you set a new goal for yourself and set out on a new journey. It didn’t seem like it was enough, though you thought it would be.
This is because the goal is not the source of your happiness. The fulfillment is. The purpose you feel. The work. The play. Enjoying the moments that life is made up of — and that means something different to each one of us.
You are not going to find happiness by chasing it, because it is already within you.
Many of us look at happiness as a destination. As a result.
‘Once I accomplish this thing, I will be happy.’
‘Once I get married, I will be happy.’
‘Once I am making x amount of dollars, I will be happy.’
The problem here is, each of these things places the entire existence of your happiness on external forces, leaving it completely out of your control if something goes wrong. It is a recipe for disaster.
“I’ve never really thought about it…” was the answer I received from a successful 49 year old coaching client when I asked what he felt would make him happy and fulfilled in his life.
The truth is, as a whole, we DON’T really think about it. We are not taught or conditioned to seek fulfillment or true happiness — we are simply led to believe that the one who dies with the most toys will win. And, during this pursuit, we rush right by the the depths of connection while skating along the surface of the pond, never taking time to look down into the deeper meaning lying right below us.
So, how do we add another layer on top of our education and self discovery to help create a deeper and more connected humanity?
We need to help people learn about themselves as individuals rather than telling them who to be.
We need to help people uncover their own passions instead of telling them what they should want.
We need to encourage exploration, both of one’s self and of other cultures in order to gain understanding and perspective.
We need to start rewarding authenticity from children and adults rather than trying to stifle it by passing judgment.
We need to help younger generations set goals for themselves and their lives that are attainable, which will allow them to build confidence through meeting these goals over time.
We need to show all humans that it is OKAY to be WHO THEY GENUINELY ARE and that they will be accepted in society for it.
Until we start helping BOTH children and adults understand their own truth and how to turn it into a sustainable lifestyle that allows for the bills to be paid and the heart to be full, we will continue churning out generation after generation that looks back on a life of bank accounts more well-cared for than their own hearts.
Real education shouldn’t be about WHAT to think, but HOW to think. These skills, taught through exploration and communication, will serve humanity as a whole better than the absence of them ever will.