I originally planned on writing a lofty blog piece using quotes by Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln (though I still might use some.) After all, isn’t happiness a serious topic? I could cite the World Happiness Report included in the November 2017 issue of National Geographic. I have included it in the references in case you want to wade through it. Oprah has probably written on happiness, and it would be easier to read than the World Happiness Report.
I stumbled on some books that take the seriousness out of the pursuit of happiness, (borrowing from The Declaration of Independence.) The Subtle Art OF Not Giving A Fu*ck, by Mark Manson was shown to me by one of my clients. I like this client (not because of some mutually salty language), and I liked the premise of the book. We are encouraged to embrace our limitations, accept our imperfections, and grow from solving problems. This book is sprinkled liberally with the F__ bomb, but there is a point. Doesn’t a good swear word now and then make us happy?
Manson writes that “Happiness comes from solving problems… to be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is, therefore, an action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed on you.”
Here comes Aristotle.
He wrote that our supreme good, or happiness, is to lead a life that embraces our ability to reason and that good or bad fortune can play a part in determining our happiness. If we live life to the full, we are bound to be happy. For Aristotle, happiness is a question of behavior and habit, rather than luck. It is an ACTIVITY.
“The Happiness Project Or, Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin is a funny though well-researched book. Rubin did what I had no interest in doing. She tackled the subject of happiness through a wide lens: religion, philosophy, literature, psychology science, and popular culture. Even a fortune cookie- “Look for happiness under your own roof.” She developed a set of commandments she chose to live by:
1. Be _____________(fill in your own name).
2. Let it go.
3. Act the way you want to feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out.
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.
Then there is Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated radio host who is known for his conservative, political, and social views. He was asked to provide a talk to a college audience and thought he would be speaking about religion. Instead, he was asked to talk about happiness, which threw him into a ten-year journey of reading, writing, and lecturing about the topic. His book, Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual was published in 1998.
He asserts that the human desire for happiness is as universal as the obstacles… According to Prager, happiness is a moral obligation, but “does not mean acting unreal…or refraining from honest and intimate expressions of our feelings to those closest to us.” It means to “work on our happiness”. Happiness is a continuing process of celebrating connections, doing good, counting your blessings, and not taking yourself too seriously. Prager encourages the actions of finding and making friends, not seeing yourself as a victim, and finding meaningful work (paid or non-paid.)
What factors into happiness?
Being active, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Meaningful work or life purpose.
Friendships and community engagement.
Being self-compassionate and learning from life’s challenges, not being victimized by them.
Chocolate. (OK I added that one)
“Folks are usually as happy as they decide to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
The Search For Happiness, National Geographic November 2017
THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*UCK, Mark Manson
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual, Dennis Prager
Happiness Is, from You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown