The Four Commandments of Happiness
Every day thousands of different publications release new studies and opinion pieces about what a person needs to be happy. Maybe you need more coffee, or maybe you need less coffee. Maybe your self-worth is too aligned with your material possessions, or maybe your material possessions are so unimpressive that you actually should feel bad about yourself. Whatever the advice, one major flaw of these articles is that the authors often make generalizations about diverse groups of people. If one is going to dole out life advice, I think one should have some real-world experience on the subject. I cannot write an article about how painful it is to give birth, or if human flesh is as tasty as the Korowai claim, but I can declare that I know quite a lot about the pursuit of happiness for a young, Jewish, urban, unmarried and childless professional. I can also claim that I have perfected a theory about achieving happiness for this select group of people.
First, a disclaimer. There is an old quote attributed to Ethel Watts Mumford that says: “God gives us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends.” You can choose not to be close with your family, but you can’t change your family, and therefore they have no place in this discussion. Of course you have the option to choose to be in a relationship or not, but meaningful relationships are not that easy to get into… or out of. Furthermore, if a person is truly in love, then happiness may already be a done deal. My parents could sit together staring at a brick wall for a year and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t complain at all. Except about paying taxes, my Dad would still complain about paying taxes. No, this theory only applies to aspects of your life that can be chosen and that can be somewhat easily changed.
I realize this article is written for a Jewish dating magazine though, so I should at least tie that in. Although this isn’t love or dating advice per se, I have always believed the most important aspect of dating is confidence. I also believe that genuine confidence is often a byproduct of genuine happiness, so if you can accomplish the four goals below, you will be on a path towards genuine happiness, genuine confidence and then some genuine, piping-hot Jewish love. To make this even more Jewish, I call these the Four Commandments of Happiness for Unmarried, Childless, Young Professionals. Should you follow the Four Commandments, I promise you will be happier than Moses at an all you can eat manna buffet. They are as follows:
1. Thou Shalt Love Thy Friends
This one is self-explanatory. Your friends usually become your family when you are in your twenties; they’ll be by your side for your merry adventures and half-baked plans. I do think it’s important to distinguish that I believe you need to have great friends in your city. Having great friends spread out everywhere is nice, but you need to love the friends that you get to see often for the purposes of this stage in your life.
2. Thou Shalt Love Your Job
Your job does not have to define you and you don’t have to be a workaholic. The simple fact is that you are going to spend a ton of time working throughout your life. If you can find a job that you truly love, your happiness levels will vastly improve. Anyone can love their free time, but if you have a job that is fulfilling, you have a massive head start. We’ve all experienced being around people who truly love what they do. Those lucky vocation-loving jerks are always happy.
I find it interesting that self-help books and websites always preach that it’s ok to not make a lot of money if you love your job (an obvious sentiment). However, I don’t understand why this sentiment can’t be reversed. What if you make sufficient money for your lifestyle, but don’t love your job? Many people may be against this, but I see nothing wrong with it. This leads to the next commandment.
3. Thou Shalt Love The Money You Make
Loving the money you make may sound shallow, but I believe it can be very important. When I say “love the money you make.” I don’t mean you have to be making Heisenberg money. I mean that you have to be making enough to fund your lifestyle and hobbies and, in turn, your happiness. If you make enough money to fund your out-of-work passions (travel, installing bidets in every bathroom in your house, etc.), your quality of life improves.
Another simple, yet underreported fact is that although we will spend a good percentage of our lives working, we spend the overwhelming majority of our time not working. If the 40-60 hours a week you put into your job are irritating, but it makes the other 108-128 hours of the week amazing, that’s not a terrible tradeoff. For some people, being able to afford a comfortable lifestyle is essential to their happiness. You may disagree, but I say good for them. Find out what makes you happy and then go get it.
4. Thou Shalt Love The City You Live In
I believe the city you live in contributes a great deal to your overall happiness. Maybe you love your city because of its incredible nightlife and dining. Perhaps you love it because of its natural beauty. You could love it because of its proximity to your friends and family. Or maybe you love it for the career opportunities it provides. The specific reason you love your city is not important, but having a reason to live where you do is.
Now ask yourself, how many of these Commandments can you honestly say you follow?
- Following Three or Four Commandments
Holy hell you are good at life! No need to do anything. Everyone you know is jealous of you… and isn’t that the ultimate goal in life? Stop reading, go horah in the streets.
- Following Two Commandments
This is acceptable for happiness and is probably the norm. You are in a good position if you are following two of these Commandments, but should change anything you can to get up to three or four Commandments. Do as I say; I’m a powerful advice columnist.
- Following One or No Commandments
Here is the advice part of the column: If you are following one or none of the commandments, then you need to change your life immediately. You have control of where you choose to live, whom you choose to hang out with, and what you do for a living. Shake things up and make drastic changes. Go back to school, join an online dating site, get serious about finding lasting love, forsake your boring job and follow your passion, forsake your passion and go live with your best-looking friends at a nudist colony – just do something and do it immediately.
Your young professional stage of life is an amazing and unique time; it would be a shame to look back on it with regret. You have a freedom and a flexibility that will not be the same once you have a spouse and/or children. Of course, not everyone can be well-paid and love their job while being surrounded by good friends in a great city, but everyone can make decisions and life changes to get as many of these characteristics as possible. And if you are someone who finds happiness from being poor, while working at a job they hate, while living in a terrible city with no friends, then I’m sorry I wasted your time. Good luck out there.