Monday, May 12, 2008

The Highway To Happiness!

A note from peter@thewealthyattitude.com for Tuesday May 13 2008

Welcome to Tuesday.

Thank you all who wrote about your reflections on Philip’s piece yesterday.

Today we are going to continue the theme with the second of the offerings from our friend Philip Humbert.

The Highway To Happiness!
by Philip Humbert

Yesterday I wrote about the "pursuit" of happiness. This week, want to talk about not just "pursuing" it but actually being happy! I think there's a big difference.

Based on the feedback, two things stood out in yesterday’s “reader”. First, readers reacted to my statement that happiness might be a "skill" to be learned rather than a feeling that occasionally happens to us. Second, there was reaction to my separating "happiness" from material possessions or success.

For our purposes, I'm not convinced that happiness is primarily an emotion, and I'm not convinced that happiness is directly related to "success" in the usual sense. I've known too many miserable millionaires! I prefer to think that happiness is a "way of being."

For Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the "pursuit of happiness" meant primarily the right to pursue wealth. They were concerned about life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue their interests as farmers or merchants. Today, we think of happiness very differently.

For most of us happiness is either an emotion ("I feel happy") or an on-going sense of fulfillment and satisfaction with our lives. I'm more interested in the longer-term. I want a lifetime of happiness! Sure, I enjoy moments of happiness during a party or on a roller coaster, but it's so short-lived! I want the long-lasting variety!

For me, the bigger and more interesting question is, "Can I achieve a life-time of happiness and personal fulfillment? Is that possible?" I believe the answer is a resounding YES! You CAN be happy most of the time, for the rest of your life.

How?

First, decide to be happy. Abraham Lincoln, who struggled with depression his entire life said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Happiness seems to begin with a desire to BE HAPPY! Most people focus their time and thoughts on getting things done, on achieving various goals or avoiding failure. And, there's nothing wrong with that, but in the process they forget to focus on being happy. Choose happiness as a project or goal or value, and focus on it. Take time to be happy every day.

Second, notice what makes you happy. Most of us know what makes us laugh or feel giddy for an evening, but we're not as certain about what brings long-term happiness.
What fills you with pride or satisfaction? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What people, places, activities and values bring peace of mind, contentment or fulfillment? Note these and see if they could play a larger role in your life.

Third, happiness is active, not passive. Happiness seems to come from living our values and priorities. Happiness comes from doing valuable and worthwhile things, from making a positive difference in our world. We all know the frustration of spending a hectic day being frantic over trivial things. Don't spend your life that way! Every day, invest some time doing things of ultimate value. Do things that reflect who you are and what you stand for.

Finally, happiness is more about giving than receiving. I've been blessed to have many things, and there are even more things I want in life. And of course, in small ways, many of these things do "make me happy." I enjoy them! But few of my "things" actually seem connected to my long-term happiness. I suspect we focus too much on the things we want, and not enough on the things we have to share. Many years ago, Jesus said, "It is better to give than to receive." Based on many observations, from the Dalai Lama to Mother Theresa and my own "best moments," I think there is truth in that.

If you want happiness, give more of yourself.

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1 comment:

Shaleah said...

This was a great article to read this morning for me becuase I had one of those really off days yesterday. It felt like everything that I have been working so hard at was pushing back even harder. So when Peter talked about a "hectic day" I understood that if I thought a different way things might have turned out happier, lol. The very last quote about helping others would give you a happiness really lets me remember who I am really doing this for and in return, I feel content.