Posted by: joannabrandi | January 7, 2010

Happy New Year – What makes it happy?

Happy New Year! Is it?  Happy? What makes it happy?

Good health, a better job, lots of money in the bank, a new car, a new wife, a new nose? A new place to live, a new religion, a new piece of jewelry, a new pair of shoes?

A lot of these things do bring pleasure and pleasure is wonderful – but it’s only one piece of happiness. Enduring happiness has three faces – and when they’re all smiling – there is a deep and elevating sense of well being. The three faces of happiness are pleasure, engagement and meaning. So in addition to things that feel good, are the things that feel worthwhile, noble, useful. Work or play we love and can get lost in, a connection to something bigger, something outside of our everyday concerns – something uplifting.

If you want to know more about how to increase your happiness ask yourself three questions – What gives me pleasure? – That’s a really easy list for me. The beach. Good friends. Good food. Good wine and all that comes after it, including chocolate.

Second question: What activities do I have in my life that I can lose myself in? What activities to I participate in that allow me to be my best and use my strengths?

Is there a place where my challenges meet my capabilities… and then nicely edge me out of my comfort zone so I can achieve a little more mastery?

You know…  As we are reaching to get better at something we are reaching outside our comfort zones and when we do – we expand them. We stretch and our lives open to even more possibility.

Third question: Am I connected to something larger than myself? Does my life have meaning, does my work have meaning, can I feel my purpose?

Great questions. Questions to sit with, and have a cup of tea with, or have a beer with, or have a walk, swim or jog with. Questions are important because they frame the way we think.

The more we change the questions we ask ourselves the more expansive our lives become.

As we ask ourselves these questions – and as we are truly honest in our answers – we begin to see where we have quite a number of places where we can do things to move our happiness setpoint.

Do you know about the happiness setpoint? Scientists now tell us that about 50% of the factors involved in happiness are genetically determined. You may have noticed that some babies are born happy and others are born grumpy. Some are like.. “I’m so happy to be on the planet.” And others .. why did I come here and why did I pick them to be my parents..”

You have to admit, some people are just downright cranky.

I used to be like that, a lot.

About 17 years ago I discovered Marty Seligman’s book on Learned Optimism. Before I read it I thought I was an optimist. I had a lot to learn. I had to adjust my attitude.

Twelve years later I got the opportunity to study Authentic Happiness with Marty and became one of 1000 coaches he trained to take his work out in the world and use it in our respective worlds to (as he put it at the time “help raise the tonnage of happiness on the planet.”   Here I am.

note: Marty has since changed the words he uses to describe his vision, I’m still attached to these words, they suit me at the moment.

Having a happy new year has very little to do with circumstances outside yourself. Only 10% of your happiness has to do with the external circumstances in your life.

Fully 40% of how happy you feel comes from things that are in your voluntary control – your thoughts, actions, habits, beliefs – the story you tell yourself about your life.

That’s huge and enough to tip the balance even if, like me, you were one of the cranky colic-y ones. Optimists live 7 -9 years longer than pessimists – that’s a lot of extra years.

Over time this year I’ll be sharing – along with my thoughts on creating more Customer happiness – my thoughts on creating more personal happiness.

There’s been a wonderful series running on PBS this week and it’s mind expanding to tune in.  One more reason to support public television. You can see it here http://video.pbs.org/program/1142148877/ It’s called “This Emotional Life.”


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