Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Steps to Happiness

A note from for Monday July 14 2008

Welcome to a lovely new week to play with.

Firstly, my thanks to all who sent comments on the new website presentation. I appreciate your feedback. If you haven’t seen it yet you can check it out at:

This week we’re going to have some fun with “happiness”. The past couple of weeks we’ve really dealt with some issues that have “weight”. So this week we’re going to play with the delightful subject that brings lightness to our days.

To get us started we go to our good friend Philip. He always has a perspective that makes us pay attention.

The Steps to Happiness
by Philip Humbert

There is no doubt that we want to "be happy" and that happiness enriches our lives. Happy people live up to eight years longer! Happy people are more confident. They have better relationships, and more energy, Happy people make more money, and they achieve their goals more often and with greater feelings of satisfaction and joy. Happiness feels good (who wants to be unhappy?) and it's good for us!

We're learning a lot about happiness. We're learning that money, fame, even power, long-life and health do not "make" us happy. Everyone knows, or is familiar with people who have "made it to the top" but remain unhappy people. What a shame!

At the same time, we also know that millions of people who achieve little in terms of "success" can be supremely happy! What an irony! Viktor Frankl, in his account of surviving the horrors of Nazi concentration camps talks about inmates who even managed to find some measure of happiness in those terrible conditions. How can that be????

First, I think it's crucial to separate happiness from pleasure. No one would want to be in a concentration camp, and no one would find "pleasure" in cancer, being poor or uneducated or suffering any of life's other tragedies. Much of life is painful!

But happiness is different. My own definition of happiness refers to "consistent feelings of satisfaction or joy when remembering the past, enjoying the present and anticipating the future." Happiness is about living with integrity and purpose. Happiness is about living our own lives, in our own way, and knowing that our lives have meaning. Happy people have moments of pleasure (that's important!) but even more importantly, they know they are living the life they were meant to live. At the end of the day, that's happiness.

Anyone with a credit card can buy pleasure. We live in a world of multi-media entertainment, travel, bright lights and fancy toys. We can eat at the world's best restaurants, or travel to exotic places. Anyone can do that, and we deserve them! They are nice and they are part of what we work for. Good for us!

According to the research, however, these things do not necessarily make us happy over the long-run.

Happiness is a bigger game, played for higher stakes. Happiness is about a life worth living. It's about doing work that makes sense and that uses your talents to make the world a better place. Happiness is about loving relationships. It's about honesty, integrity, and it has a component of meaning, purpose and contentment. Happiness is more elusive and more important than pleasure.

I'm writing a book about happiness, tentatively called "The High Way to Happiness," but for now here are four suggestions:

1. Take happiness seriously.
Happiness doesn't seem to "just happen." It's not a matter of luck or chance or youth or lucky genes. Happiness is something to go after, something to study and consider. Happiness is a goal, a skill and a result of living a life consistent with your values. Take it seriously.

2. Notice what makes you happy
and do more of it. If growing roses makes you happy, great! If taking the kids fishing makes you happy, do that! If working on your business makes you happy, go for it! Build your life around the things that bring joy and make you happy.

3. Be happy today.
Happiness is connected to gratitude, optimism and laughter. As Bobby McFerrin recommended, "Don't worry, be happy" and start now. Happiness is not a "someday" dream. It's a skill we practice every day. Be happy.

4. Invest in happiness!
Take time and give thought to a life of fulfillment and happiness. Pray or meditate about it. Ponder it, and take action!

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