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If you’re like me, the probability is that you were raised with the idea that if you did what you were told – and studied hard – then you would get a good job…and be happy.

I started to detect cracks in that proposition when I was very young.  The highest academic achiever in my first year high school class did as he was told, studied hard – qualified as a doctor…and then took his own life.  That, and many other inconsistencies during the ensuing decades convinced me that, as a life strategy, the ‘be good, study hard, get a good job, be happy’ idea was flawed at best – and an outright lie, at worst.

If we follow the trajectory of most of those who subscribed to this idea, what we really see are people who actually struggled to put themselves in a position where they got to work for others…for up to 50 years…on the understanding that they could then please themselves about what they did with what remained of their lives.

Of course, that all assumed that things went according to plan.  

It assumed that your ‘good’ job paid enough for you to accumulate enough to survive with dignity – much less to ‘please’ yourself. It assumed that you managed to avoid the substantial list of natural (and man-made) disasters that were generally regarded as ‘acts of god’ – a general description for the calamities that befall people for which no one is taking responsibility.  It assumed that you avoided life’s bastards – the bandits who prayed on the soft targets who were busily following the prescribed societal direction.  It assumed that you remained in good health in an environment that directly discriminated against good health.  It also assumed that you actually lived long enough to get your share of the social promise.

Most importantly, however, it required you to surrender your freedom for the greater part of your life in pursuit of ends for which there were no guarantees.

Let’s remember that these are the folks who got a ‘good’ job.  

Those who did not do well in an educational environment set up by the ‘haves’ often found themselves working in ‘minimum wage’ jobs that did not even provide the food, shelter and other necessities of a civilised and dignified existence.  These were the ‘have nots’ that were destined to become factory fodder for the ‘haves’.

Then there’s the sick, the aged, the minorities, the traumatised veterans and those who otherwise struggled to function within the societal framework established by the folks who own it.

Now, whether you subscribe to my view of how things work – or not – is not important…and nor is it the point of this post.  The important thing is to understand that, for so many people, the social promise was/is not delivering.

The next thing to determine is whether you’re one of them.

If you’re….

  • Getting older and find that, as life should be getting easier, it’s actually becoming much harder.
  • A parent of young children who is locked in a day-to-day struggle to make ends meet.
  • Concerned about the looming gap between the world’s population and its capacity to feed itself in the face of pollution, aquifer depletion, desertification, erosion, climate change and the other serious environmental threats confronting us.
  • A young adult wondering how you will ever achieve the ‘the great Australian (or other country’s) Dream’ of home ownership.
  • On a treadmill, working for people who don’t respect you or your abilities.
  • Approaching ‘retirement’ and an increasingly uncertain future.
  • Marginalised, disadvantaged or disenfranchised…or lacking any sense of control over your own life and its circumstances.
  • Convinced that the world is facing an imminent survival threat.
  • Tired of the growing hoard of bastards who are roaming through your pockets with a sense of entitlement.
  • Just someone who is seeking a more fulfilling life.

…then you’ve taken the first step toward a more satisfying life…simply by acknowledging your dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s not the train.

It’s called happiness…and it should be your highest priority.

In my next post, we’ll explore what happiness is…and then, in subsequent posts, we’ll get into how it’s possible to have more for less – with happiness as a consequence.