Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Intro to Happiness

Happiness cannot be bought, and it is not a place you can go, it is a journey that is travelled every day for the rest of your life. It is the feeling that you experience while on a journey that is taking you towards your purpose, that has no regrets, and no worries.

"The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

What is Happiness?
This may be one of the most subjective questions we can ask ourselves. Each of us has our own personal ideas on what will make us happy and it would be foolish to think otherwise. But, I think we can come to some form of agreement about certain properties of happiness, and these are the ones that will this blog will be based upon:  
  • Happiness is doing things not having things
  • Happiness equals excitement, unhappiness = boredom.
  • Being in control of your life - while exerting total control over your life does not necessarily bring you happiness, it is hard to imagine appreciating the feeling of happiness for very long if you did not feel in control of your life.


So, if we agree that happiness is doing things, and that happiness equals excitement, then we are on the right track my friends. Seeking happiness in any other way will take us down a long frustrating road.


“When you see someone who is genuinely excited, look at the expression on their face and what do you see. Most likely you see the look of happiness.”

Why Happiness?
This may be the biggest, most important question we can ask ourselves. Why is being happy so important? And why should I spend so much time pursuing it? When we boil it down, everything that we pursue is ultimately because of the feeling that it will give us when we attain it. That feeling is happiness and it is produced from the chemicals that our brain releases when we achieve it. Unfortunately, those same chemicals are released when we “achieve” many other things as well, and this can create a whole lot of confusion up there. And, like those other things, happiness is also a temporary state that can and will fade as well.
The difference (well one of many), is that if we achieve that “happy” state while doing something exciting and moreso, while performing a learned skill in a challenging environment, we can, and will, reap residual rewards - the gained knowledge, the happy memories, and the self-confidence to do it again (maybe at an even higher level).

People are strongly, perhaps even primarily, perhaps even single-mindedly, motivated to feel happy. People want to be happy, and all the other things they want are typically meant to be means to the end. - Dan Gilbert

Happiness and Contentedness
For as long as I can remember, I believed that being “content” was what we settled for if we couldn’t be “happy”. So, when I started studying the Eastern ways of living, which promoted the ideas of living in the moment and being content in life, there was a disconnect. So, we just give up on being happy and settle for being content?


But as I studied the concepts of happiness and started realizing that you cannot “achieve” happiness, you can only experience it, it started to feel like I would just be on this constant happiness seeking treadmill. That didn’t sound very appealing at all.  


It was only when I started looking at contentedness as more of the place that we reside while we seek out experiences that will bring us happiness. Maybe, if we make it our goal to create as many happiness inducing experiences as possible, if that becomes our goal, then an overall feeling of contentedness is what we can experience long-term.


Happiness and Success
One of my favorite definitions of success is - having what you want, when you want it, with whom you want. And if we also believe that - success is having what you want and happiness is wanting what you have.


Then if we just rephrase the definition of success to - doing what you want, when you want, and with whom you want - happiness and success start to become a bit more synonymous. We could even make the claim that, like happiness, success is also just a state and not a place. We don’t just reach a level of success and then sit back and call it a life. Soon that “success” would start to lose its luster, I guarantee it.


"To be happy, you have to 'know your favorite flavor of suffering'--fear, anxiety, depression, denial--then free yourself from it." - Tony Robbins

How to Get Some
First, we must break the relationship between attaining things and the “happiness” that it brings us. Then, we must doing more and more things each with a new level of difficulty and the accompanying learned skill. Then we need to get out and apply that new skill in the most challenging way that we can handle. This would be - getting out of that box we call our comfort zone.


Happiness And Our Inner Child
This may be completely subjective, and your experience may be quite different, but I can tell you that the moments where I feel the greatest amounts of happiness and joy, i.e. the most exciting moments, are doing the things, that upon a bit of reflection, are identical to the things that I used to do as kid. Jumping off stuff, climbing up and down things, running and riding freely, basically doing things that really have no point other than to just experience the feeling of doing them.


“During the first few years of life every child is a “learning machine” trying out new movements, new words daily. And each instance of enjoyable learning adds to the complexity of the child’s developing self. Unfortunately, this natural connection between growth and enjoyment tends to disappear with time.” - from Flow

To be honest, I have put myself in some positions of relative risk and danger (really stepping outside my comfort zone) and I can tell you that there is no better feeling to have when you get through it unscathed (sort of) that you survived. That you lived. That is the ultimately feeling, (cliche alert) that you are living life to the fullest.


So, understand that we are on this Earth to not just live, but to live an exciting, fulfilling life, where the only boundaries are the ones we set for ourselves. And maybe the ones dictated by biology and physics. But that’s it! Well, and chemistry. But that’s it.


Now let’s get out and make some happy experiences!
Jim


Resources:

  • Flow - by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Stumbling on Happiness - by Dan Gilbert
  • The Four Hour Work Week - by Tim Ferris