I always tell high school grads I know what they want to be without asking.
It's not a trick. I don't have magical powers.
It's just that all graduates want to be the same thing.
It's the same thing their parents wanted to be at their age. And still do.
It's the same thing I wanted to be. And still do.
We all want to be happy.
I once told a gymnasium filled with high school juniors I knew what they all wanted to be and one young man blurted out, "Yeah, rich."
Everyone laughed, including me, but when the room got quiet again, I said, "Be careful if you choose to go down that path." I told them someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, perhaps the richest man in the world at the time, how much money it took to be happy and he answered, "A little bit more."
The point is, money can buy a lot of things but happiness is not necessarily one of them. I can think of a lot of rich people who don't seem happy. I bet you can, too. Some are pretty famous.
So then, if it's not money, what is the secret to happiness?
I have some suggestions.
For starters, it's meaningful work. It's knowing when you go to bed at night that you spent your day well. That your life has purpose.
Since we all must work for a living, most of us spending a third of our day doing so, the work we choose plays a key role in our happiness. I share with young people all the time what I call my Formula for a Happy Life. It's a combination of things I've read or heard over the years. It goes like this: (1) Figure out something you would do for nothing; and (2) Then find someone who will pay you to do it.
It doesn't matter if what you would do for nothing is playing a guitar, or taking apart a car engine and putting it back together, or taking care of other people, or cooking a meal, or writing for a newspaper, there are people who will pay you to do it.
But even if you land the perfect job, there are other things you'll need to master if you want to be happy.
One is gratitude. It is far too easy to focus on what you think is wrong in your life and ignore all the things that are right. Gratitude, it is said, turns what we have into enough. We do ourselves a great favor when we embrace the meaning of enough. We don't often think about it, but those of us who get to use an actual toilet are better off than over half of the people on the face of the Earth. If you have trouble thinking of things for which to be grateful, why not start there?