The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness

You move to another country. You retire. We’ve all had the question “what will you DO all day??” If you don’t have a lot of interests and hobbies outside of work, this can be a consideration no matter where you live.

It sounds lovely to sit on the beach with an exotic drink with a little umbrella and watch the world go by, but this isn’t a long term solution for happiness. Maybe you find your dream home in a beautiful spot and this is very nice. It’s a bit like what we have been taught all our lives – get the good job, the great spouse, the lovely home, the hot car, etc etc and you will be happy. How disappointing to learn that this isn’t necessarily so.

I’ve met enough elderly people dozing in their wheelchairs to make me think. When I’m at that point, will I be satisfied with my life? Will I be glad I did some things, regret not doing others? Will my little corner of the world be any better because I was here?

Then I ran across this article that brought these thoughts to the forefront

We all chase happiness, but maybe happiness is only a byproduct of being useful, of contributing in a positive way to our world. It’s a mindset of being kind to others, meeting a need even in small ways, or using our human mind to create something. Read the article. It explains it better than I ever could.

So, that’s my thought for the day. Otherwise, life here just goes on and I haven’t had anything remarkable to write about.

The car needed some major repairs on a leaking cabesota (engine head, I believe) and I learned a lot of new words in the process. We did shopping and errands yesterday so the freezer is full and we are set for a while. We sort of cleaned the house while the band equipment was still in the car, and did laundry.  I’ve been weeding the yard (it looks like work, but is actually one of my main pleasures).

It took a few days to recover from our Panama City excursion, and then we had a busy weekend with the band which took another day or two of recovery. Now that I’m a much better bass player, I’m realizing the usefulness of playing music. We played well and  had a whole lot of happy people on Friday and Saturday nights.

But, after living here close to 7 years, it’s just daily life and the usual conversations – the sun is hot. Will it rain? What ate my plant this time? Why do the dogs always bark at the trash men? La vida difícil.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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16 Responses to The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness

  1. Nancy Boller says:

    Kris, you nailed it. We’ve only been here maybe 7 weeks now and I’m chomping at the bit to find something useful to do. I know i will take time to find my niche. I also am enjoying weeding/gardening, what little I can do here. I think we need to find the place here in Panama that feels like home and we have more exploring to do. Almost made it to the Brewing Company on Friday night to see the band but I fell asleep! I’m hoping to make it one of these weekends. 9:00 is a bit late for us. Chow!


    • Give yourself some time! You are settling into a new country, new home, and new life. Taking care of yourself is the first step.
      We’re at the Brewery this Sunday, 6:30-9:30. Those Friday and Saturday nights are definitely too late for many people. We’re also at Mike’s Global the last Saturday of this month, 7-30-10:00 so maybe one of those gigs will work out better.


  2. Sandra Mejias says:

    iI enjoyed your article as always. The first thing, I realized that the real happiness is bring more attention to the small and simple things. The beautiful sunrise, the birds singing on the tree. The second is bring your love to everyone. No matter if your day is bad, smile. Tell your friends and family hoe much you love them. Maybe you don’t say “I love you” but show them.


  3. Ruth says:

    Will go and read this article now. I enjoyed reading your post today.


  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    Money won’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a big yacht that will take you right up close to it…


  5. Scott Saunders says:

    Money is a tool, how you use it depends on what it produces, a hammer can build a house or tear the same house apart….I am a firm believer that alcohol reveals our true nature. If I give you $10k while you’re wasted that will show me what your true attitude towards money AND life is. Love reading your words Kris. Blessings.


    • Thanks! Yes true about money, and probably about alcohol also though I’d be inclined to ask you to put it in the bank until I sober up and start thinking straight 😃


  6. Felipe says:

    Two days ago I finished “Sapiens” (Yuval Noah Harari). One of the last chapters is on happiness and I learned a lot about the topic and our historical interpretations. Now your post – the topic is in the air! I’ve watched my mom retire at 81 (she’s turning 83 this year). After a long and rewarding career she was lost for a while. Now she volunteers to help second graders in reading and loves it. Those little kids bring her love, they give her a purpose, and she’s enjoying retirement. Just coffee and swimming were not enough. Great topic and one certainly good for people moving to Panama.


    • The book looks interesting. Did you think it was worthwhile? Some of the reviews weren’t very positive.
      How wonderful your mom is enjoying her work with the kids. I think we should get kids and seniors together a lot more. It’s good for both. I think managing retirement is a topic for everybody.


      • Felipe says:

        I personally enjoyed that book. It’s big and the paper is really heavy and thick, which made it heavy for travel. But it gives an interesting overview of science and evolution but in layman’s terms my non-science brain could absorb. Maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. The happiness chapter was more of an off-topic, most of it was more science based examination. Happiness can only be a topic after you’ve got food/shelter/safety taken care of in your life. Maybe that was his point at putting that in there.


  7. Carla Chavez says:

    I am thankful for your blog and enjoy it tremendously ad we begin a family adventure of our own in Panama! (Hopefully……..still working out some details) With this said, I am hopeful you could recommend the attorney you used to prepare your residency information. It seems even more intimidating picking one from a list outside the US let alone when no one can refer you. Please feel free to email me if you prefer than posting it directly onto your blog. Thanks again for letting us share in your beautiful life in Panama!


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