Changing topics now, let’s talk about engaging with interests. People who don’t have many interests are usually less happy and more anxious. And there are a number of reasons for this. When we’re anxious, we more tightly focus on the source of our anxiety – you know, the problem. We don’t have time to focus on interests, friends, family, job, etc. When we don’t have interests, we tend to focus on our problems more. So it’s a mutually negative thing. There’s two ways to get to the same place – focus on problems or don’t have interests. They both get you to the same place. When we don’t have many interests, we sit around and think about all the problems we have. Interests take us away from that.
Most people – this is another reason – most people have at least two skill sets, making them good at two things – much more so than all the other things that they do. If we don’t use both of those, we’re not going to be as happy and fulfilled because we’re not using our talents. We’re not getting the satisfaction from them. Most jobs only require one of those skill sets, leaving one unused.
I’m a therapist. Guess which is my strongest skill set. Well, social. Right. Some of my clients would probably disagree that, but be that as it may. My second strongest skill set has to do with mechanics. If, in addition to my work as a therapist, I’m also fixing the garage door, or drilling holes in something, or welding something, or driving something, or building something, I’m happier. I recall that just before I quit my job of twenty-eight years and started a new career, I was intensely unhappy. What did I do? I built a rock- crawler. I didn’t sit down and think, “I’m unhappy. What can I do to make myself happier? I need to do something mechanical.” No, it just happened. It was a way to feel some satisfaction when my job was causing frustration.
So, interests away from the job can be very helpful to help us be happier people, if they engage our strengths. If all you have is your job, and it’s terrible, then you’re really up the creek. It’s important to love our work and be happy, but when we can’t, then using other skills in some productive way can make a difference. In any event, if we’re using our skills, we’re going to be happier people.
Well, we just scratched the surface of this aspect of the happiness topic – which was engagement – but there are some things to think about there. I don’t know about you, but even though I know all these things, and have for a long time, I need to be reminded of them from time to time.