Mankind Was My Business

Is it too early to talk about the reason for the season?

Just a quick reminder about why we do anything at all:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

‘Business!’cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!'”

— Jacob Marley, Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

I know you’ve read my thoughts on the death bed principle–the idea of actively staring down the days we have left and taking action on ideas that reduce the likelihood of regret. Well, there’s also another way to combat regret, and that’s by focusing on happiness.

It turns out that happiness (serotonin) and temporary pleasure (dopamine) are completely different in our brains, yet we conflate them all the time.

The words of Jacob Marley haunt me every year and I’m so grateful. Let’s spend more time focusing on others, because as Scrooge inevitably learns: it’s those around us who give us meaning.

2 Minute Action

What is one crucial ingredient for true happiness?

Is it an object? Is it touchable, sense-able, or visible?

How much time are you spending on developing that thing, bringing in more of that thing, or finding a way to lose less of that thing?

However hard it is to focus on doing that, amid the other distractions of living our lives, it’s worth it.

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