If you associate Pythagoras with unhappy high-school math memories, then you might be surprised to find a quote attributed to him about friendship and happiness.
Here it is: “Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.”
Before I continue, I should point out that it’s difficult to get solid verification about what a particular philosopher may or may not have said over 2000 years ago. Maybe Pythagoras said it; maybe not.
Regardless, I found the quote interesting because of three ideas that are packed into it.
The first idea is the choice of the word “persevere.” A friend is one who helps us continue; to keep on striving toward what will lead us to a happier life.
Encouragement is the essence of helping one persevere. It’s an antidote to the discouragement that can seep into our minds so easily when happiness appears to be elusive.
To help someone persevere, to carry on even when they are not sure how they can continue, is certainly the mark of a friend.
If you have such a friend in your life, then you are truly blessed. And, here’s a suggestion: Tell your friend. We sometimes assume that people know how we feel but that’s not always the case. This could start an interesting conversation.
If you don’t have such a friend, then sadly, I know that you are not alone in that. And I recognize that this suggestion for you may not seem very satisfactory, but I’ll offer it anyway. Here it is: Be such a friend to someone else.
Being a friend, the kind of friend that you would like to have, could help you gain a friend. Even if it doesn’t, perhaps the actions of helping someone else persevere will also encourage you and help you persevere. It’s possible.
The second interesting idea in the quote is the goal of “a happier life.” He doesn’t say “a happy life.” When we get caught up in absolutes and expect perfection, we’ll likely find our situation lacking. “Are you happy?” is a question that asks you to compare your situation with some ideal of perfect happiness.
A different question is, “Are you becoming happier?” That question is about direction rather than an absolute goal.
Life is a journey through time, and there will always be changes. We may grow happier, or less happy. Do we have control over that?
Dr. Glasser has referred to our “quality world,” a mind’s eye view of a satisfying life. For example, relationships may ebb and flow, as we grow closer or farther apart. Perceptions of the esteem we are held in by the community or workplace may also vary. As circumstances change, our status can also change.
Do we have control? Not over everything. But if we assess from a perspective of “happier or not-happier?” we can at least get some clarity about direction and whether we want to make changes.
Finally, the quote offers the suggestion of what we can do; not what we can’t. There’s much that we cannot do. We can’t make someone happy. But we can be a companion. We can encourage. We can help someone persevere.
What do you think of this quote on friendship?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom