My Ongoing Journey Towards Happiness
By Sebastien Debarge, IP2
Winning speech for BVTMC Chapter Meeting on Monday, 17 August 2020
Pathways Manual, L3P2 – Inspire Your Audience
When I get my degree, then I will be happy… When I get my first job, then I will be happy… When I
meet my partner, then I will be happy… when I will get a bigger salary, then I’ll be happy… sounds
familiar? Yes, We’re all the same.
Well, I got all these things and in truth, looking back, I am not happier than 20 years ago
when I had none of this as a student, broke and worried about my future.
So, why despite having obtained nearly all that I thought would make me happy, I am still not
happier today than 20 years ago?
Good evening Club President, Toastmaster of the day and fellow Toastmasters.
Have you ever observed kids with new toys? They play a lot with them; they want to sleep with
them, they want to bring them to school to show to their friends, they fight over them and then…
nothing. They just got bored with them. They just want new toys to get the same burst of
As adults, aren’t we the same as kids with material stuff? We just want them, thinking it will
make us happy, then we buy them and quickly novelty wears off.
A recent example in my home, a few months back my wife bought some nice Asian style
bookshelves for our living room, it felt nice and cosy for a while but now we don’t even notice
Why? Because they are just stuff that sticks around and stay the same all the time. We get used
to it and they become boring. So, now my wife wants to buy an Asian style coffee table to
This is called the hedonic adaptation. So we want new stuff again to get this same feeling. It
seems in our materialistic society, we are chasing the wrong stuff for lasting happiness.
So what should we buy instead?
According to numerous studies, we should buy experiences instead of material things.
Experiences do not stick around, we don’t have time to get used to them, and they create lasting
We don’t adapt to experiences, so they are going to make us happier than material stuff even if
our intuition tells us otherwise.
In fact, we get more happiness from experiences than we think. It brings happiness by
anticipating them, by living them in the moment and by remembering them.
OK, I got it, material stuff does not make me happy and I should buy experiences instead but to
afford this, I need more money. Surely more money will make me happy then. As I can afford
more experiences, I do not need to worry about the bills, and it gives me a sense of security for
This is true, more money will make us happier… until a certain level. A 2010 study out of
Princeton University found that there is a correlation between happiness and wealth, to a point of
about 75,000 US$ per year. When people make more than that, their happiness does not
So instead of chasing jobs with more money, what should we look for instead?
Have you noticed children when they are absorbed in an activity? They are fully immersed in the
moment and completely lose track of their environment and time. They are in a state of flow.
Have any of you experienced this state? Do you feel happy in this state?
A state of flow happens when we do activities that are challenging but not impossible with some
skills required. Athletes, musicians etc are often in this state but we can also experience this in
our day to day jobs or in our hobbies. So instead of constantly chasing jobs with more money,
we should chase jobs which can increase our state of flow.
Ok, I got a good job with a good salary, with some state of flow sometimes, and I can afford to
But looking back, I am not happier than when I had none of this, when I was a student, broke
and was dreaming of all this. Why?
The reason lies in one very important component…Social connection…
When I was a student in University, I had no money but I had a strong group of friends. We
were all the same age, all going through the same challenges at the same time, all going to
parties, all got drunk, all were chasing girls… We were reckless, we had this togetherness all the
time, I never felt alone…
After getting my first job, this insouciance was gone, social connection as I knew it was gone as
colleagues are all from different stages of life, some with kids, some not, some old, some young
and after work, people just get on with their own lives.
And then, as I focused more on my career, I moved countries, I lost contact with some friends
and family, I made new friends but overtime I slowly started to neglect social connections. And
as I am an introvert, I thought it suited me. I was already practicing social distancing before
Covid-19 came disrupting our lives.
But when social distancing is the new rule in the world as we are experiencing right now, it
made me realise how I miss social connections and how it is important for our well being and
In my personal journey, after all these years focusing on my career chasing better jobs, better
money and better experiences, thinking it would bring me happiness, I came to realise that I
neglected the most important part of the puzzle. Social connection! An experience is only good
if it can be shared with people. Money is only valuable if it can benefit others as well. Happiness
is only possible when shared with people.
I now made the resolution to focus more on this part of my life that I neglected for a while.
When I am connected to my friends and family, then I am happy!
My fellow toastmasters, what is your resolution in your journey towards happiness?
Back to you Toastmaster of the day!