‘Happier’ With Dave Flynn


Relearning To Live With Lightness

As I sit in the bath, unwinding after a busy day, contemplating life, I come back to the question: is there any proof that life has to be serious? And if it doesn’t, could it be that joy, much like seriousness, is something we can cultivate as a habit?  

Personally, I believe that seriousness can be a habit, a learned behaviour that we unconsciously pick up from society at large. ‘Stop laughing, stop messing – this is a serious matter!’ was a line I remember being told to me countless times growing up . Obviously being serious has its place and there are moments when it is required, however, I wonder if we have gone too far and is it time to re habituate ourselves with how to experience a little more joy on a daily basis? 

I observe one of my greatest teachers daily—my 8-month-old daughter, baby Fia. Her eagerness to participate in household chores, from washing the dishes to filling the dishwasher and even mopping the floor, is a lesson in itself. For Fia, there is no distinction between work and play; every activity is approached with an open, curious attitude. Each moment is an adventure, an opportunity for exploration and joy. This seamless integration of curiosity and play into daily tasks reminds me that perhaps, the boundaries we place between ‘work’ and ‘play’ are artificial constructs rather than absolute truths.

From Human Being into Human doing?

I worry if we are becoming more machine-like in our relentless quest for efficiency? In our drive to optimise every minute of our day, I am asking myself if we are losing the essence of what it means to be human? It seems like we may be evolving from being human beings—creatures of experience and emotion—to human doings, where our worth is measured by our productivity and output. This shift seems to strip us of our humanity, reducing our lives to a checklist of tasks rather than a rich tapestry of experiences.

Why is work typically associated with toil and hardship? This view, which sees work solely as a burdensome necessity for livelihood, is ripe for reimagining. What if we could approach work with the same curiosity and joy that children like baby Fia bring to their explorations? 

By shifting our perspective, work can transform from a series of mundane duties into a canvas for creativity and a source of deep satisfaction. Understanding the true worth of our tasks and seeing them as chances for personal growth and contributions to greater causes can transform work from merely a way to make ends meet into a fulfilling aspect of our lives. I know this might sound very grandiose but I believe our perspective and how we approach work can be the pivotal point. 

I wrote about turning routines into rituals in one of my earlier Happier Columns, about approaching mundane everyday tasks with an attitude of presence and imbuing it with a sprinkle of sacredness can transform the experience. By shifting our mindset from just getting through each day to actively seeking out meaning and joy, we can improve both our work satisfaction and our overall well-being.

Lessons from 1000 elderly Americans

In his book 30 lessons for living gerontologist Karl Pilemer interviewed 1000 elderly Americans looking for the most important lessons they learnt from decades of life experience. Here is what they said:

  • No-one, not a single person out of a thousand, said that to be happy you should try to work as hard as you can to make money in order to buy the things you want 
  • No-one, not a single person out of a thousand, said that it is important to be at least as wealthy as those around you and if you have more than them then it’s real success. 
  • No-one not a single person, said you should decide your work based on your desired future earning power 
  • What they did value was things like quality friendships, being part of something bigger than themselves 
  • Spending quality unstructured time with their children. “Your kids don’t want your money or what your money buys anywhere near as much as they want you, specifically they want you with them”, Pilemer writes.

Karl Pilemer’s findings lead me to a cheeky realisation: are many of us just being busy fools? Many of us hustle hard for more stuff, adopting a serious, all-go-no-stop attitude that can actually make us miss out on what’s truly valuable—like laughing with friends or lazy Sunday mornings with the kids. Maybe it is time we ease up on the gas pedal a bit, swap some of that efficiency for reflection, and sprinkle a little more fun and play into our days. After all, it seems that the best parts of life might just be the moments we aren’t working so hard to accomplish a goal.

A theme that I often journal on is, “How can I infuse today’s responsibilities and duties with more joy and ease?” This inquiry not only challenges the seriousness and heaviness commonly associated with my daily tasks but also steers me towards a more fulfilling engagement with life.

So, what do you think? Do you find yourself caught up in the hustle for more, sometimes missing the moments that truly matter? I’d love to hear if this strikes a chord with you. How do you balance the daily grind with making time for joy and play? Let’s chat about ways we can inject a bit more lightheartedness and creativity into our routines, and maybe, just maybe, let go of what might be some of that habitual seriousness. Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s inspire each other to live a little lighter every day!

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