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On Happiness and Helping People

Winning medals. High marks. We’re told that if we do those things then we can get into a good university, go get a good job, make money, and then we can finally be happy.

I have pretty good marks, a few swimming medals, and a part time job. According to what universities, parents, and teachers are telling us, I should be a pretty happy high school guy right?

But it doesn’t feel any different. In the pursuit of those high marks and those prestigious achievements, it’s like I’m chasing an empty dream. An idea of happiness that keeps getting further away from me the harder I try. I realized that if the only thing I cared about were awards, marks, and money, I would never be as happy as I want to be.

So I slept on it, beat my head on a desk, and tried to figure out what I could do to make me happier. I don’t think I have a good answer yet, and honestly speaking I don’t think I ever will come up with an answer or a magic formula. Heck I don’t think there is a magic formula. But I believe that there a few things that can help me become less stressed, to slow down a little bit and savour life a little bit more.

Don’t get hung up on the small stuff.

Sometimes you just have those bad days. Sometimes your friends will do something that hurts you. Sometimes you make mistakes. I’ll admit that I get really pissed when some of these things happen.

But here’s the thing. We blow so many things out of proportion. In the grand scheme of our entire life, will we remember those bad days?. When we get hung up on a test mark, or get angry at a good friend, we’re just making ourselves more unhappy. The past is already set in stone. Forgive people, forget the bad days, and roll with it.

Happiness is all about your mindset. When you think that you’ve had a bad day, that’s what it’s going to feel like. When you get hung up about the tiny details, you slip into that negative mindset and ruin your entire day.

Stuff happens. Don’t let it rain on your parade.

Just one small thing… help others

I’m a selfish guy, but recently, I’ve made the commitment to consciously start trying to help more people. In other words, I’ve been trying to give more than I take.

And truthfully, it really sucks.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stayed up late to help someone with a presentation. Of all the the times I stay after school to help people train for DECA. Of all the times that I’ve stayed up late reading and editing other people’s work. I think I’ve lost at least 20 hours of sleep this month alone. Sounds exactly like the kind of lifestyle us teenagers want to avoid right?

You know what, I still love it.

It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re making a difference, you’re quite literally changing their life. When the people you coach, help, and mentor go on and win awards, get motivated, and try new things. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, when people walk up to you, smile, and say “Thank you” from the bottom of their hearts.

Everyone should try and find those moments. Where you can have a big impact by doing just a little bit. Small things like staying after school to tutor someone. Sitting down and talking with someone who’s lonely. Helping your sister out for her tryouts. Everyone has the capability to help others and make a meaningful difference.

It’s going to be tough. You’re going to wonder, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But you won’t regret it. I promise.

My Econ teacher

My economics teacher is actually the happiest guy I know. He’s always smiling, he likes to ask us what type of music he should download for his daughter, he loves helping out his students. He lives the good life.

But he could have had more.

As a student entering university, he was accepted into UofT for finance. He was on his way to getting onto Bay Street, making loads of cash, and getting into the investment banking life. It’s what his parents wanted for him too.

He didn’t go into that program. Instead, he decided to study economics and become a teacher.

He went on to teach in Thailand for a few years. My teacher didn’t know the language. He lost count of how many times he suffered from food poisoning, but Thailand is where my teacher had the best time of his life.

Now he works at my high school, teaching a bunch of kids who often do not care about his subject at all. He mentioned that he’s paid around $60,000 a year. That’s definitely stable, but it’s not the investment banker’s salary he could have had. Sometimes I see him running around our track after school before he bikes home to his family.

My economics teacher doesn’t have what we would consider the most glamorous life. No nice cars, or fancy tech, or classy restaurants, or tons of cash. But that is the life he wants to live. It’s the one that he chose, as his parents and friends shook their heads.

“When I grow up I want to be happy”

That's what everybody says but sometimes I feel like we're pursuing the wrong goals. Evidently happiness isn't just about money. Happiness seems to be more of a mindset. Where you shake off all the bad stuff, where you give as much as you take, where you pursue what you believe in and appreciate the things you have.

So don’t worry, be happy - Bobby McFerrin (yes not bob marley, google this it’s true people)


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