Thursday, March 1, 2012

Finding Happiness, Part 1

I came across an idea yesterday that really stuck with me, and I want to share it with you.

In the 1500's, when Copernicus told the world that the Earth rotated around the sun, it created a major shift in what had for centuries been believed:  that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it.  From that moment on, everything -- our very understanding of the universe -- changed forever.

Similarly, in the world of psychology today, a huge paradigm shift is taking place.  It's called Positive Psychology, or the Happiness Advantage.  For untold generations, we've believed that happiness is a by-product of success.  But in fact, the opposite is true.  Much like when Copernicus finally understood the startling discovery of his day, ours is this: success actually orbits around happiness.

Think about it.  We've always been told to work hard, keep our nose to the grindstone, and toil indefinitely for the promise of happiness in some distant future.  Meanwhile, the most successful people, the ones with the competitive edge, do not regard happiness as some distant reward and grind through their days on neutral (or on on negative).  They are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn.

So how are we to define happiness?  Obviously, positive emotions -- pleasure combined with underlying feelings of meaning and purpose.  Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook to the future.  But perhaps a more accurate definition is one that Aristotle used:  eudaimonia, which doesn't directly translate to "happiness" but rather to "human flourishing".  So for Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.

I love this.

This explanation finally makes sense to me, removing the voodoo-like mystery that happiness has elusively hid behind all these years.

This is why I have a spring in my step now when I get out of bed.  This is why I have boundless energy when it comes to planning and implementing all the exciting things I will do next with my life.  This is why I don't feel guilty not being at the office when my little girl is dancing in her high chair in the middle of the day, and I join her.  This is why although money is very, very tight, I'm not up at night worrying about it because I'm creating not one but many channels for it to flow through in the very near future.

I left my job, my career, my prestige, my authority (and in a lot of ways I hadn't anticipated, my identity) for all the right reasons.  I am striving after my potential.  Sometimes, I just need a little reminder.

2 comments:

  1. I am reading a book called the happiness project by Gretchen Rubin, it is quite good and touches on this point

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    1. I've read it too! I loved it! I especially the idea of breaking down seemingly insurmountable tasks (such as Achieving Happiness) into bite-size chunks. It's a concept that appeals to me greatly. A great read!

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