Last week I was lucky enough to spend a week with some old friends. We have known each other long enough that I went to their wedding and this year is their 20th anniversary. In addition I’ve had the absolute pleasure of watching their two sons grow up and develop their own wonderful, and very different, personalities.
Being able to go on vacation and being able to spend it with good friends made me feel very blessed – and reminded me of a couple of things I have read recently about happiness.
– for a daily dose of happiness check out the 1000 Awesome Things blog which manages to come up with an awesome everyday thing every single day;
– MP Mueller, a breast cancer survivor, writes about attending a fundraising event:
“Surrounded Saturday night by women bravely dealing with this unwelcome visitor, that jolt came back — the reminder that life is indeed fragile and short. (How do we manage to forget?) Doing what you truly love each day is the difference between existing and living. Are you doing what you truly love? If not, how can you get there? Are you passionate about your work? Do you have a dream you own, a purpose? If not, take the time to reach into your soul and define one. Embrace it and strut down the runway of life with all you’ve got.”
– Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, spoke about the economics of happiness in a commencement address at the University of South Carolina:
“Happiness is just one component of the broader, longer-term concept of life satisfaction, and only one indicator of how the fabric of our lives is being shaped by our choices and circumstances. I am reminded of a story about Abraham Lincoln. According to the story, Lincoln was riding with a friend in a carriage on a rainy evening. As they rode, Lincoln told the friend that he believed in what economists would call the utility-maximizing theory of behavior, that people always act so as to maximize their own happiness, and for no other reason. Just then, the carriage crossed a bridge, and Lincoln saw a pig stuck in the muddy riverbank. Telling the carriage driver to stop, Lincoln struggled through the rain and mud, picked up the pig, and carried it to safety. When the muddy Lincoln returned to the carriage, his friend naturally pointed out that he had just disproved his own hypothesis by putting himself to great trouble and discomfort to save a pig. “Not at all,” said Lincoln. “What I did is perfectly consistent with my theory. If I hadn’t saved that pig, I would have felt terrible.”
The story points out that, sometimes, happiness is nature’s way of telling us we are doing the right thing. True. But, by the same token, ephemeral feelings of happiness are not always reliable indicators we are on the right path. Ultimately, life satisfaction requires more than just happiness. Sometimes, difficult choices can open the doors to future opportunities, and the short-run pain can be worth the long-run gain. Just as importantly, life satisfaction requires an ethical framework. Everyone needs such a framework. In the short run, it is possible that doing the ethical thing will make you feel, well, unhappy. In the long run, though, it is essential for a well-balanced and satisfying life.”
– in the same vein Umair Haque puts together a Betterness Manifesto for the Harvard Business Review :
“Consume less. Do you really need another pair of designer jeans, three soy mocha Frappuccinos a day, or a bigger TV? Really? Betterness happens not through naked, aggressive consumption of disposable, mass-produced stuff, but by learning to spend your hard-earned cash on smaller amounts of awesome stuff that’s made with love, ethics, and passion.”
I shall have to put some thoughts together for my own life satisfaction manifesto. Sometimes it is the smallest things such as being in the supermarket today and seeing that People magazine’s latest issue features the 50 Most Amazing Bodies.
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