....And the Pursuit of HappinessApr 17, 2013
Happiness seems to be an ephemeral experience. A couple of weeks ago I sat at breakfast with a friend. Our conversation wound its way through professional adventures and misadventures finally resting in my deeply reflective experience of going to a funeral and seeing the impact—really the happiness that one person had on so many people through his service and caring. We flowed into a conversation about happiness. She defined happiness as “being able to choose what you want to do and then having the freedom to pursue it”. Her definition was pretty clear-cut. We bantered back and forth from there, but her definition really got me thinking. How would I define happiness? My answer? I really don’t know.
This past week, I’ve pondered the definition of happiness. My quest to understand how others around me defined happiness lead me to ask friends...“How do you define happiness?” The answers varied widely. For some, there was no answer. For others, the answer was an experienced college where the happiness “feeling” was experienced. Could you actually define happiness? Well, I decided to do a little exploring.
I stumbled on an interesting website The Pursuit of Happiness. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed by the scientific nature of the information. Then I found the section on the 7 Habits of Happy People along with a 15 question quiz.
The 7 Habits include the following:
5. Spiritual Engagement and Meaning
6. Strengths and Virtues
7. Positive Thinking
As I took the Happiness Quiz, the questions got me thinking about the areas of my life that I am happy and satisfied with and those areas that are not as full and contributing to my overall positive, happy outlook. I found the questions insightful and instructive. You might too.
The 7 Habits also got me thinking about unhappiness or dissatisfaction that I sometimes experience or that I see/hear others experience. I began to wonder if our rush-rush world separates us from knowing that there are many aspects of our lives that we are HAPPY, but messages of lack pervade our consciousness creating self-condemnation and unhappiness. Essentially, we are being trained to see and experience lack or the sense that we are never good enough. For example, if I walk my dog for 30 minutes that can be my form of exercise. However, the insistent drumbeat of exercise programming leads to negative self-talk/self-perception about the lack of a regular exercise routine. This “doom loop” of negative thinking sets me up to not experience happiness even though I am walking 30-minutes a day.
The 7 Habits of Happy People is a helpful compass pointing me in the direction of having happiness flow through my days. It is also a gentle reminder of areas in my life that need care, feeding, and conscious action. It is powerful to recognize that happiness has little to do with others’ actions toward me, but is completely related to my actions outflowing to the world around me.
You might hear folks around you (or you) make statements like “He/She/They didn’t make me happy” or “You don’t make me happy”.We live in a society that suckles at the teat of unhappiness and lack by creating images of what happiness “should” look like—which always seem just outside our grasp, our wallet, our time, our capacity.
While I haven’t developed a happiness definition, it is clear from the 7 Habits of Happy People that happiness is dependent on one factor: me and my active, conscious participation in shaping my life across these seven areas. Take some time to invest in your happiness. Spend time reading one of the 7 Habits. Identify ways that you are already creating your happiness and take one action to create happiness in your life.
Jenny DuFresne is the CEO, Leaders Transform. Our mission is to develop leaders who grow, inspire, and evolve people, culture, and impact. Our team supports executive and mid-level leaders with executive coaching, leader, team, and culture development in mid-market companies. Learn more at www.LeadersTransform.com
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