Such is a line from a popular song that refrains with “there is life at both ends of that red dirt road.”
The song seems to be saying that people from all walks of life can be and are happy, without undo regard for which end of the road they are on. Having lots of money, a prestigious address or job does not guarantee greater happiness.
A researcher at Notre Dame School of Business seems to agree with the import of the song. Professor Timothy Judge found that, “despite the many accomplishments of ambitious people, they aren’t significantly happier than their more laid back peers.”
The bad news from the research is that more ambitious people tend to live shorter lives. The study tracked ambition, achievement and indicators of health and happiness.
The research consulted these factors at key times during childhood, adulthood and beyond. Many of the subjects were graduates from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stamford and other prestigious schools. The study revealed that, in the end, ambition had only a slight effect on happiness and did not translate into a happier or healthier life.
Recently, an international consortium met to discuss happiness rankings by country. The research was conducted between 2005 and 2011. Denmark was ranked number one for happiness followed by Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Canada. The United States ranked eleventh in happiness as a country and Togo, a sub- Saharan country on the African Continent was the unhappiest country.
States were also ranked. Hawaii was ranked number one followed by North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah and Alaska. New York was the 34th happiest state, Vermont was the 12th happiest state and West Virginia was the unhappiest state in the Union.
As adults, we pressure our children to be one of those people who are good at everything and we frantically involve them in as many things as is possible. Children often have schedules that are demanding or even daunting. Weekends no longer belong to families; the hectic schedule of events is now extended into the weekend.
Maybe we are making kids happier with all this activity, though that doesn’t appear to be the case. Actually, rather than enrolling kids into so many different activities, it might be better if most adults patterned their schedules after their young children. Watch a young child that has been given an ice cream cone, a simple pleasure enjoyed by many ages. However, young children have the gift of living in the moment and for the time that they are eating their ice cream, it is their exclusive joy and they lose themselves in each delicious moment. They don’t need lots of expensive stuff; they have the gift of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Just being outside looking at the clouds or playing in the rain connects children with the important simple pleasures that life affords everyone who is available to receive them.
Children have the gift of letting go their anger and can express a full range of emotions. Observe a playground and you may see kids arguing one minute and laughing and playing with each other in the next moment. Children that are free to do so, can engage in imaginative play, losing themselves, if only momentarily in a character that they are portraying with a joyful and complete embrace. While we are all influencing the children in our little piece of the world, don’t be afraid to experience the world as they do through happy eyes.
Look at the clouds with them, run in the rain, step in a mud puddle, make funny noises and faces and most of all laugh, laugh until it overcomes you. Yes you can, be happy.
Remember all kids count.
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