My mantra has always been, "Happiness is the objective of my existence." Simply put, this means that I will never knowingly do anything that does not contribute to my happiness. The major caveat is that happiness rarely means immediate gratification. As Zig Ziglar said, "The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now."
I have had a wonderful and happy life. This might mean that I am one of those rare, if not fictional, people who never had problems in life. That is certainly not the case. I have been fired three times from a job. I was close to bankruptcy. I am married to a woman who is as strong-willed as I am. We had nine children with the exponential problems that come with an exponential number of kids. Finally, I had heart disease for 13 years that lead to a heart transplant.
With that set of realities, maybe I was just deluded rather than happy. I don't think so. I was happy because, in spite of obstacles, I was certain that I was being true to my mantra and I was working towards what I wanted most.
We all understand the importance of establishing priorities because we have seen what happens to people who have neither focus nor purpose in life. "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else," is how Yogi Berra, the renowned baseball catcher and philosopher, put it.
In order to find purpose in life and gain happiness we must establish priorities. In addition, we must also understand the inter-relationship between principles, priorities and expediencies.
These are our core values and reflect those things that we believe in the most. If one believes that riches will bring them the most happiness, then that person's principles would be – "There is nothing more important than money." Or, "Make as much money as possible without risking going to jail."
My principles are based on God's laws; such things as virtue, honesty, kindness, etc. These principles have kept me on course to a happy life. That is not to say that I am always as virtuous, honest or kind as I ought to be. However, when I get off course, because I have principles, I know what I have to do to get back on course.
The duties that matter most are our priorities; such as our duty to God, our family, our work, our self-improvement, our country, etc. If my priority is to have a career that produces the most income possible, I will make sure that I spend more time at work than at less important duties. I will also sacrifice whatever it takes to show everyone that my career is the most important thing in my life.
No priority in my life takes precedence over my duty to God, and then my family. I must follow Him first. In fact, the reason that I have been fired three times is that my employers expected me to make work my number one priority, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. Work is very important but no job, boss or career is worth sacrificing those things that matter most. I was a dedicated and hard-working employee but I was never going to do those things that violated my principles and priorities, so we parted ways. No regrets.
Urgent demands that must take precedence over other priorities for a defined period of time are expediencies. Those would be such things as a family emergency, a big project at work, or helping someone in urgent need.
Our principles and priorities must never change but expediencies constantly change. For example, my family is always a higher priority than my work. However, my expediency is to be on the job each workday, focus completely on the task at hand and willingly work overtime, if necessary. But, if I get a call to come home because a member of the family is going to the hospital, my expediency immediately changes. My principles and priorities have not changed but the expediency of the family matter has taken precedence.
In conclusion, set-backs in my career, financial difficulties, family issues and health problems have all come to me. None of these has kept me from being happy. There is a joy and satisfaction in doing what you know to be right. It will bring you self-respect and the respect and love of your spouse and children. Being true to God's principles also brings you his comfort, guidance and approval. I know that true happiness comes in no other way.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Roger Allred's blog. It has been republished here with permission.
Roger and his wife Sue have nine children and 21 grandchildren, so far. He has worked in many different jobs and in many different positions including a COO of a health care company, a teacher, the CFO of a feed mill, a CPA and the CEO of a power plant. In 2011, he received a heart transplant. In 2012, he and his wife hiked 60 miles in 6 days and summited Mt. Whitney to celebrate their 60th birthdays and the first anniversary of Roger's heart transplant. Roger currently works as a management consultant.