Managing for Happiness

Managing for Happiness

SUMMARY: Isn’t happiness, once you figure it out what “it” is, supposed to be natural and easy? This expectation may be what’s leading me around in circles. This is part 1 in a series exploring some of the counter-intuitive insights I’ve had about re-tuning my expectations toward productivity.

[data]: The past few weeks have been somewhat foggy, despite collecting additional qualitative data with regards to my personal time management. The net result is that while I’ve [gained insight into what factors contribute to my instant-to-instant productivity][data], I haven’t really made traction on satisfaction. My goals appear no closer than they were three weeks ago, and my hopes to achieve an independent lifestyle by 2010 seem somewhat in doubt. What I do know is that this lack of clarity is bringing me down. So, taking advantage of a Southwest Airlines voucher that was on the verge of expiring, I decided to take a trip to visit family in San Jose for a change of scenery.

back to basics

After some deliberation over at The Coffee Society in the Pruneyard this afternoon, I think there are only three enterprises primarily on my mind. Mind you, they are big ones:

  • The Pursuit of Happiness – for me, a balance of community and creativity.
  • Fulfilling Entrepreneurial Ambition – currently, the allure of creating and selling novel, well-designed products and books.
  • Finding Purpose and Passion – my best guess: being part of a culture of creative, generous individuals that are doing intriguing things.

I’m aware of two mechanisms that are under my control that can propel me toward these goals. The first mechanism is opportunity, which comes in three main flavors:

  • Existing low-hanging opportunities (requiring little effort)
  • Developing new opportunities (requiring focused effort)
  • Discovering an opportunity I didn’t know existed (requiring luck and timing)

The second mechanism is producing value in exchange for cash in order to fund my enterprise, which I’ve broken down in order of most appealing to least appealing.

  • Doing things that I like and can get paid for
  • Doing things that I like but don’t have an immediate payoff
  • Doing things that I don’t like but can get paid for
  • Doing things I don’t like, have to do, and don’t get paid for

I have a pretty clear idea, detailed to death, of what constitutes each of these seven mechanisms, and I can even figure out how to hypothetically combine them into a process that generates results. What has been bothering me is a lack of progress despite having gained knowledge of what contributes/detracts from peak productivity. In fact, the week after I stopped doing the graphing I had a terrible sense of not having got anything done at all. Not that I could remember, anyway.

the missing element: oversight

Which leads me to a conclusion that initially seems counter-intuitive: perhaps happiness needs to be managed. That implies metrics and measurement. Before, I’d assumed that so-called “true happiness” would feel effortless and exhilarating once acquired, no tedious number crunching involved. A perfect match between my natural talents and my ordained role in society, true happiness would be the byproduct of harmony between me and the universe. And so, I’ve spent a lot of time surgically applying the knife of reason to the inner workings of my soul, trying to tease out morsels of what talent and purpose are within my grasp. Sure, it’s been a fruitful quest, having lead to numerous insights, but I now find that the search for true happiness sounds suspiciously like the search for true love. While the romantic in me embraces the possibility of such trueness, the pragmatist in me suddenly feels a little sheepish being caught with the bloody knife; I’ve done a lot of cutting, looking for something that perhaps never existed.

If you accept my premise, what does it mean to manage happiness? I think it means that one eventually realized that it doesn’t take that much to be happy, once our basic physical and emotional needs are taken care of. First there’s the need to eat, be clothed, procreate, and have a place where we feel safe. Then there’s the need to have some kind of human fellowship (e.g. trust) with the people that are, by chance and by choice, in the same metaphorical room as us. Once both of those conditions are met, the spark of happiness follows from something that my friend Senia’s father, Zak Maymin, mentioned during dinner the other day. He was speaking in the context of Chess and what he called the passing pawn. The gravitas with which he declared the following truth, weighted further by experience with Soviet, Capitalist, and Libertarian ways of life, struck me (paraphrased below):

To be happy, we need to have the chance to make a big gain.

The Pursuit of Happiness is to have that chance. The odds of success improve drastically by gaming the system; in a word, this is what management is all about. And to do that, you need to have a good sense of what you’ve done, and what you need to build on that to keep going toward the goal.

I haven’t said anything that is not already common wisdom in business or productivity. However, I have increasingly come to suspect the actual feeling of happiness can be synthesized from much smaller bits of measured feedback, like making “Rice Krispy™ treats” from elemental bits of puffed rice, butter, and marshmallows.

Being able to place small acts of achievement into the daily and long term context, measured against the baseline of mere survival, is essentially a management oversight task. The trick for me, then, is to remember management needs something to manage in the first place; the balance between management and production is ultimately what I need to quantify. This kind of balance requires the awareness I’ve gained in my aforementioned [time mapping experiment][data] to help manage the expensive context switch between thinking like a manager and actually creating something. One rule of thumb I’m applying is to ask myself whether my current activity will expand the number of considerations or refine/distill them; the former is an act of foresight and management, while the latter is an indicator of an applied creative process.


  1. CricketB 13 years ago

    Happiness is like anything else we want: We need to do a bit of work for it. We need to develop habits so we create opportunities for it, take advantage of found opportunities, and actually take the time to feel happy.

    In the evening we put the kids to bed on time and prepare the kitchen for the morning. They wake up ready to go, breakfast and lunch-making are smooth, and we get out the door on time. Along the way she notices a caterpillar, and I realize we can spend several minutes being together watching it—a moment to enjoy. If I hadn’t done the work that evening, or notice that it was a great moment to enjoy, that moment of happiness wouldn’t have happened without the big-picture thinking and quick decision to change plans.

    Likewise, we save money so we can take advantage of a limited-time offer, or deal comfortably with emergency. Big-picture thinking, enabling quick changes in plans.

    We notice the “comfortable cocooning evening” has turned melancholy, and change activities. I received several bits of bad news this week, and added many people added to my prayers. Yesterday I emailed a group about research I’d done about a workshop. Last month they were interested in the topic. Yesterday they were upset I’d suggest the workshop I’d researched. I could stay home and sulk, or I could accept that the communication broke down in a few places, offer the honourable option of “put it in the neat idea but not this year file,” and remember that usually I really enjoy the group.

    So, yes, management helps me find happiness.

  2. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Thanks for the wonderful comment, Cricket. The very idea of managing happiness, despite my recent thoughts, still seems so discouraging in tone.  Perhaps management isn’t the word I’m looking for.

    Another friend of mine, a former eagle scout, has a life philosophy of always being prepared. While he can’t predict what exactly will happen, he does have a number of strategies and resources that he can deploy should he need to.

  3. CricketB 13 years ago

    I look at it, not as managing happiness, but managing my life as a whole to maximize things I value, which includes happiness.

    If happiness, health, love, or anything worth having just happened, there would be many more happy, healthy, in love people in the world.

    Besides, we often value things more when we have to work for them.

    I compare it to FlyLady’s concept of God Breezes. All the good things in the world can be blowing my way, but I have to have my sails open to catch them. When they do catch something good, I need to notice and take the time to enjoy it, or the moment is wasted.

    I have a pro-active approach. One goal is to really enjoy a moment with each family member every day. Most of it was getting off the couch and spending time with them. Watch a show they like and laugh with them. Plan a birthday party and be able to spend the time with the kids rather than icing the cake at the last minute. Being proud they aced a spelling test. That numerical goal eventually became a habit.

    A more passive approach is a gratitude or happiness journal. Find five things, no matter how small, that made you happy each day, pay attention to them, and record them (but don’t let recording get in the way of experiencing). It gets you in the habit of noticing. If you consistently, over the long term, see things that should make you happy but don’t, it might be depression, which is a catch-all description of symptoms which can have any number of causes.

    Several years ago, I wasn’t happy. Not suicidal, but there was no joy. I now value happiness enough that I work for it, and it’s been worth the investment. I don’t feel short-changed, I feel blessed.

  4. Senia 13 years ago

    Hi Dave, Hi Cricket,

    1) Cricket, you are right. Prof. Paul Rozin of UPenn says “Happiness is expectations management.”

    2) Dave, you totally captured the passing pawn concept so concisely.
    I love that concept too, and am so glad he wrote about it. 

    3) This is intense and interesting:
    “And so, I’ve spent a lot of time surgically applying the knife of reason to the inner workings of my soul, trying to tease out morsels of what talent and purpose are within my grasp.”
    Reminds me of you and I talking about thinking vs action.  Even though this is graphic, it was all thinking, right?  Isn’t that what you’d said before?

    4) I’d add one more concept to all the above.  Change is good.  Change = movement.  Look back at your going-to-the-gym posts.  You love movement.  Muscles feel alive when there’s been movement.  Life is alive when there’s been change.  The father of positive psychology, Seligman, recently said in a talk that “most of us are nearly always asleep.”  Change is nice.  It wakes us up.

    5) It’s true as Cricket says that we value things more when we feel we’ve earned them, and the GodBreezes is really true, and you’ve been great at that Dave – observing when it’s time for your sails to capture some wind under them.

    Good night!
    :) S.

  5. Layla 13 years ago

    Interesting post and comments!

    I too thought happiness is something that ‘happens’ (and now know better). Though partly it still is.
    Unexpected moments here and there, grinning at shared misery with someone, or welcome distractions or things that make our lives easy…

    Partly, it can be managed indeed. I find certain food makes me queasy, and some makes me happier. Physically so.
    Lack of magnesium, zinc, or other minerals can have an effect too. (Coffee, sugar or alcohol ‘steal’ the good minerals so in the long run can cause misery even though they cause short-term ‘happiness’.)

    Things that didn’t happen but they ‘should’ are a well-known cause of misery.. :) Just read any book on CBT (I recommend The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns) I am reading GTD now and really like the idea of ‘re-negotiating contracts’ with yourself.

    Also, just accepting you feel ‘misery’ or feel away from ‘real happiness’, can be profoundly liberating and lead to greater happiness!

    I too thought I’d live more independently wealthy by now (and had read the Rich Dad books) – guess what, my life has changed! I’ve read about the Peak Oil idea and about GMO food and realised that an ‘independent life’ is much more than travelling worldwide. It’s learning how to grow my own food and make necessities, so that if needed, I could. I may not go to be a proper farmer, and I’m a complete newbie at most things, it feels refreshing that I know how to make butter if needed though, you know? Or cheese!

    So, happiness can come from most extraordinary things…

    I love the idea of Gratitude Journal too, I think I was happier when I did that:) so I want to start it again..

    Also, your forms and projects are helping me experience the happiness of actually starting and finishing projects, soo.. Thank you! :)

  6. Christa Herzog 13 years ago

    You shoud try the Mind Power Subliminals

    Hi Dave,

    I love being organized and loved your daily planner article. It made me right away make some entries into mine.
    But you kind of sound depresse. Yes, one has to get active to achieve the state of happiness. But today there are a number of great tools which can improve your feeling happy from the inside as outside. Ever tried aroma oil? Great stuff. Changes your mood in a matter of moments.
    Even better and long lasting are the new Mind Power subliminals, which were scientifically researched by a brain entrainment engineer.
    You can have a quick look here:
    These recordings have worked for me. After several days of using them, I felt more refreshed and energized and incredible, very positive things began to happen.

    I don’t think that happiness can be organized, but it is certain that this state of mind does not come by itself.

    All the best


  7. Amanda Pingel 13 years ago


    Have you seen Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project?

    One of her insights is that to be happy you have to think about “feeling good”, “feeling bad”, and “feeling right” in an atmosphere of growth.  In other words, feeling good doesn’t come automatically out of not feeling bad—you also have to work at feeling good. 

    Another insight is that “It’s easy to be heavy. It’s hard to be light.”  Being cheerful and upbeat is work, and has to be treated as such. 

    I think there are some habits that you MUST have in order to be happy, like
      – Connecting with other people
      – Seeing the upside/opportunity whenever possible
      – Being able to work hard when it’s necessary
      – Being able to NOT work when it’s time to relax
      – All the habits that go into staying healthy (eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc)
      – Being grateful for the things you have (‘cuz if you live in the US, you got a LOT to be grateful for, let me tell you)

    And getting and maintaining those habits is work, just like getting or maintaining any other habit.

    Exercise is a good example: are you happier when you make it to the gym?  Yes.  Does that mean going to the gym isn’t work?  No.  Happiness does arise naturally out of exercise, but you still have to work at doing the exercise.

    I mean, the formula for happiness is pretty easy, right?
      (1) Figure out what makes you happy
      (2) Do those things

    But Albus Dumbledore summed up (1) pretty well at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone: “As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all—the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

    And Saint Paul nailed (2) in Romans 7:15-20: “I do not understand what I do…. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

    So…. it ends up being work.  But having made up my mind to study Joy, and having done so for 5 years, I can tell you that it’s worthwhile work.

  8. Amanda Pingel 13 years ago

    Another thought, as I look back over your “true love” analogy:

    Maybe “work” isn’t the right word to describe what it takes to be happy.  Because you have to “work” at a relationship too, but if you already have a good relationship, then it is, as Clint Black says, “an endless and a welcome task.”

    So perhaps “work”—with its overtones of “I wouldn’t be doing this if I had my choice” and “I’d rather be fishing”—isn’t the right term.  Maybe “effort”?  Or “dedication”?

    What’s the word for something that has to be done AND happens also to be something you want to do?

  9. Christa Herzog 13 years ago

    What I see here, is, that you guys see work as something negative. I know many who enjoy working. Think of musicians, artists, of a scientist, who does not give up to find out something and as soon as he found what he researched, he already has the next project running. Or a business men who enjoys to get in contact with his clients. … or as Leyla writes that she grows her own food (I guess certain plants) etc. etc.
    No, I am certain that what makes happy must mot at all be something extraordinary. It quite the ordinary which can make happy.
    From my point of view, it makes happy, being active with a certain goal – if it is gardening or leading a huge company, or being in contact with someone special – a friend or life-partner.
    Just look, only people who are inactive, are unhappy and depressed.


  10. Karl Knoeringer 13 years ago

    Hi Dave and fellow thinkers,

    one definition of to manage = from lat. manum agere = to lead by the hand.

    Whatever you manage or what manages you think of the analogy of a child that is drawn by an adult hand to do the thing. Definitely not what a self-reliant adult wants. Western workers are managed, Japanese workers think how to make the business better.

    So you can’t lead happiness by the hand.

    There is a nice quote from Buddha (definitely a guy who figured a thing or two about life):

    “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”

    In other words it’s a choice. Or better a joyce. You can choose / joyse to be happy despite the facts that make you feel that you should NOT feel happy.

    Or you can joyse happiness despite the fact that you just lost a leg (I admit this is advanced art, but look at people running around like that. Sorry for that joke.)

    Next thought

    As far as overview is the topic think of this:
    Brain research shows left brain = digging into details and right brain = flying high to get the overview.

    If you use mostly your left brain you see only the details but not why they are relevant (the professor as a symbol for abstractedness).

    If you use mostly your right brain you live in castles in the air (the daydreamer).

    And if you balance left and right brain you are concentrated, you know the details and how they fit into the great scheme of things. You know what to do to move forward. Classical the written goal and the plan with actions.

    What do you think about these thoughts?

    Get lots done

    Karl   c]:-)

  11. Christa Herzog 13 years ago

    I like your post, Karl, tons better than mine. Why? Because you see the topic from different perspectives, while I took only a fraction from one aspect.
    And yes, I too am quite sure that happiness is a joice. It is on you if you run around with a long face or smiling and being in good mood.
    Well, scientists have found out that even when you do not feel like smiling or laughing, but if you do, something happens in your organism and you automatically be in better mood and happier.


  12. Jeff 13 years ago

    I struggle with the seeming paradox between the concept that happiness is a choice and an action (similar to love) and the idea that the more you “pursue” happiness, the more fleeting it becomes.

    As Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

    Does action equal pursuit?  If not, what does “action” mean?  Is it simply recognizing your blessings (and perhaps documenting them); or is it, as has been mentioned before, striving, effort, etc.?

  13. Rose 13 years ago

    I can remember sitting in my bedroom in Los Angeles, the city of opportunity for artists, knowing that I had so much to be grateful for and no problems, so why was I so sad, all the time.
    Well 10 years later, and trying 2 different anti-depressants, It was hereditary. Just my brain chemistry as was my grandpa’s.
    So eliminate that contributing factor first.

    I can tell you there is no effort in my happiness of today, My boss and co-workers even comment on my attitude… to my surprise. I am the same person, just respond to my world differently.

    One thing may be age. I accept my weirdness(s) with amusement. Even enourage my propensities to see where they take me. It is almost like separating a part of my mind to observe and care for the child-like part. But never thought of it like that til just now.

    I guess plans are good to have. Is there a saying like; Humans make plans to give God something to laugh at.  Have to be open to what might be better than anything you could have dreamed.

    Oh, and prayer. A gratefulness accounting every day. Centers you and you may be surprised at the results!
    That’s my 2 cents!
    Interesting topic!

  14. Posco Grubb 13 years ago

    I like Jeff’s comment.

    Maybe related, maybe not: This was in my “Give Me Something to Read” RSS feed awhile back, and I found it to be a fascinating read:

    What Makes Us Happy?

    “Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.”

  15. Nollind Whachell 13 years ago

    You said the following two things at the beginning of your article.

    “The Pursuit of Happiness – for me, a balance of community and creativity.”

    “Finding Purpose and Passion – my best guess: being part of a culture of creative, generous individuals that are doing intriguing things.”

    What do you mean by “intriguing things”? Do you mean doing things that you normally like doing yourself? Like empowering and inspiring others by helping them to realize and recognize their own purpose and passion in life? Is that what this creative community’s culture would be like and is that what they would be cultivating in others in turn?

  16. Layla 13 years ago

    Well, I don’t believe in antidepressants!! :)

    They are totally overprescribed these days, and mostly people can get equal or much better results with eg CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or just plain attitude/lifestyle change!

    My Mum’s coworker’s Mum was severely depressed years ago, and even antidepressants didn’t help! Then, her daughter dragged her for a walk each day, slowly but surely, every day more.. And things improved!! She got better and didn’t need any antidepressants etc!

    A lot can be nutrition-related, not enough important minerals like magnesium, sometimes also due to living in unhealthy environment (indoor or outdoor pollution) etc.

    I am MUUCH happier at my Uncle’s farm in the hills than in a more populated and industrialized area!!

    My Grandma has been often-times depress-ish too (and also had other health problems like heart problems, cancer..) ALL of these can be related to lack of certain minerals, and industrial pollution, etc. Chemical factories near-by. Go wonder!

    Having too much ‘opportunity’ can be stressful! And LA is *not* known for clean air.
    I wouldn’t really call a depression discovered in such conditions ‘hereditary’, hm..

    Being open, accepting oneself, and gratefulness.. yup, good things!

    Anyway, wishing everyone a lovely day!! :)

  17. CricketB 13 years ago

    Another thought: You really enjoyed that big museum project on many levels. It was an intellectual and artistic challenge. It will help society as a whole understand the holocaust. It kept you in contact with other people. It was a goal.

    It’s very common to grieve at the end of something like that. Don’t beat yourself up over a normal reaction.

    I wouldn’t rule out anti-depressants right away. They helped me see out of my rut, gave me the energy to make the necessary life changes. There are good physiological reasons why some work better for some people. My brother only responds to one of the expensive brand names; the generics don’t work for him.

    I also agree that environment and lifestyle—both physical and emotional—can make a huge difference, and are better in the long term for most people. That’s enough for me now, but wouldn’t have worked at all at first.

    Sorry, but anti-meds is a hot-button for me. So is the opposite extreme. We need as many tools as possible, so we always have the right one for the job, and the job changes over time.

    I like the idea of stepping outside yourself. It’s like meditation. You don’t get discouraged if you start thinking, you “say”, “That’s a thought,” and gently return to an empty mind.

    Sometimes our scale needs recalibrating. I used to think that most of my moments were blah, then started paying attention and they were actually neutral. That realization boosted everything to content.

    Layla’s right about too much choice being stressful. Scientific American had an article on it. We worry about making the right choice more than we enjoy having lots of choices.

    There’s a difference between chasing happiness and setting your sails for to catch it. The butterfly won’t land on your shoulder if you sit indoors, and even if it does land on your shoulder you won’t appreciate it if you’re too busy looking for a sparrow.

    I’m going to read that article Posco mentioned.


  18. Christa Herzog 13 years ago

    I have read all your comments and each of them is good and has a point.
    I am living with pain for years. Nothing can be done as it is neural pain after an operation. I usually take pain killing pills, which I can’t affort now. I could not work because of heavy pain for years. I did not give up to find a solution – lots of doctor bills for nothing. Months before my savings were gone, I began a website and learned internet marketing. For several weeks I have no money anymore. Not a penny. But I keep going and will as long as I can.
    I have no time to be depressed or dispaired as I work almost around the clock: building up my website, opening blogs, reading about topics of interest for me – as this site, which is about “Managing FOR happiness”. There are times I am so concentrated on reading and writing that I forget pain and hunger. I have no idea if I will be able to make it – at least some money to pay my apartment and buy some food – but I feel to be doing something which is positive. I am looking forward to times which are better as the situation I am in now.
    And this is why I love the title of this site: MANAGING FOR HAPPINESS – as this is what I am doing right now.
    This is the first time I wrote about my bad situation online, not that I would not want to do so, but my mind is filled with so many ideas and all of them take time to be realized. And this is why I say that one has to be active to feel happy.

    There are many wonderful movies, which show people in bad situations of their lifes and still they kept being in good mood and felt happy being on the way to the better.
    I am certain that it is a joice to be happy. In the first place happiness comes from the insice out.


  19. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Wow, you guys all are awesome. I’m just getting back from California with a fresh stack of perspectives, and already they are merging with your comments.

    CricketB: The big museum project, actually, wasn’t that enjoyable. It was a grind for a worthwhile cause. I extracted a lot of useful experiences and am happy at finishing it, but up until it was over I was pretty much not enjoying the work. Primarily because I was working in isolation on the technical aspects, and only speaking remotely with the team. The best parts were probably the monthly trips to California to coordinate in person. Much of the effort since then has been figuring out how to restructure what I do to ensure it doesn’t happen again on the next big project.

    That’s an interesting observation regarding “blah” versus “neutral” reactions. Blah is a little more actively negative? I think for me, it’s a matter of being motivated and getting enough momentum to crash through the barriers.

    Senia: “knife of reason” … I suppose it is, or rather it’s the thinking behind the action. I think one could express this as the “research action”, the beginnings of a hypothesis of action in the context of having done this many times before. In other words, I think I’ve tried the obvious things, and now I’m trying to find the hidden forces that bind them together.

    Regarding “change is good”, that’s something I’ve thought I have to generally include in my life/business plan…constant change!

    Layla: I like the theme of your comment, which is one of acceptance of our experiences. Very nice. One interesting realization from my California trip was that I have been eating terribly at home, contributing to sluggishness. The other is that I’m actually probably a little over-socialized and don’t have time to work on my actual projects that move me forward.

    Christa: Your approach sounds interesting also…CHOOSING both inner and outer sensual experience giving rise to an improvement in mood. I wish you luck in managing your own future happiness! Action tends to lead to unanticipated opportunities, especially when you can make them visible to others.

    Amanda: I probably should be reading other people’s websites more frequently. I’ve heard of Gretchen’s site, but haven’t been following it. I like that insight regarding feeling in a general atmosphere of growth…it focuses it and puts it into a “ok, what will I do about it?” context. Nicely put.

    Your followup to “work” not being quite the right word…yes. I’ve thought of it more in terms of “calling” or “mission”. I’ve always felt there was something I was supposed to be doing, something beyond the normal career/work path. I guess I’ve heeded it, whatever it is, by not having a normal career/work path. Or it is a state of being? Some kind of nodal point, through which traffic flows and brings joy to the node, and then everything that is related to traffic flow becomes an aspect of serving that joy.

  20. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Karl: Those are quite lovely thoughts. Thinking about the impossibility of “leading happiness by the hand”…I think the distinction is that of an internal versus external motivation. To be lead is an external action, but I believe you’re saying it’s an internal art. If happiness is the way, then practicing the way has to come from inside. I think I am in the habit of second guessing myself as a safety interlock, and have gotten quite good at making of fabulous contingencies, which become demoralizing. Learning to turn off the left brain JUST ENOUGH to let the daydreamer point the way seems to be the way my own practice of the art is developing. Maybe I just need to sometimes tell myself to shut the hell up and LISTEN TO MYSELF :-) Thanks for the comment!

    Jeff: Your comment reminds me of something I saw on the TV show “Numbers”. Someone is worried about being “interesting” to other people (like in a party context). Then someone else says that it’s not being “interesting” that’s the trick, it is instead to be INTERESTED. Perhaps the same thing applies to happiness. Chase it, not sure what it is. Or you observe it somehow in yourself. Not sure…but it’s an interesting line of inquiry.

    Rose: I like how you “accept your weirdnesses with amusement”. It sounds like you’re in a good place. I think I will add a gratefulness accounting at the end of the day (the beginning of the day is already full of plans). Instead of reviewing everything that didn’t happen, why not just review what went well? In a way, the Concrete Goals Tracker embodies this principle. I keep forgetting about it though :-)

    Posco: Thanks for that link to The Atlantic article. It was quite moving and thought provoking. The takeaway I have from it is that if we’re blessed somehow, we find the resilience in ourselves to handle what life and ambition throws at us.

    Nollind: “intriguing things” are really just what catches my eye because it doesn’t fit the pattern. So many people follow the pattern. A few of them wish they weren’t. A few of those break free and do their own thing without thinking about it, and another few train themselves to do it. Many of those people are creating in a way that I am moved by, because it’s tied to something larger than themselves and their immediate family, yet intensely individual.

  21. Rose 13 years ago

    About the prescription anti depressants..they sure beat the electro-shock treatments grandpa had in the 50’s.
    Layla, can’t tell you how many times I was told it was just my choice to be sad, just do this activity, that life style or this other new thing.

    I live in a beautiful clean place now, have a great job and good friends, eat vegetarian, exercise in my activities. Yet when I am waiting for the ‘script to be filled…stupid people start pissing me off again. Being content is something I do not take for granted anymore.

    Perhaps one has to experience a very real genetic chemical imbalance to understand all the time, effort and frustration trying to understand and change that you feel so bad, all the time. (Obviously that would not be communicated in a post.) I suffered for decades before a physician said, “you can try it for a few days and if you don’t feel right, just stop”. Changed everything. Environment is not always the culprit.

    That said, David, doubt this is your situation, only YOU can determine the extent of your malaise. It never hurts to court your muse! A muse that graces you with inspiration is divine. (see the movie “The Muse”  )

  22. Christa Herzog 13 years ago

    Hi Rose,
    That you came to this one site of David’s blog, shows that you are looking to find happiness.
    I can feel for you. During the years I studied at a university (economics), I did not eat properly (noodles, rice and seldom meat, fruits and vegetables). I always was tired and felt depressed. I visited a doc, who got my blood tested and the outcome was, that I missed important nutrients. I then began to eat red meat at least 5 times a week, sometimes fish, and lots of vegetables and fruits.
    As a vegetarian you will certainly miss certain important nutrients, which your organism needs. To be vegetarian is not at all good and scientists have proven it.
    Have you been checked if you have enough of all important vitamins and minerals? This blood test is seldom paid by the insurance. It costs about 800 -1000 $$. But in your case it would be worth the try.

    I offer mindmovies on my website.
    When you click on the red button saying mindmovies, you see a video explaining what it is about and then you can download 6 premaid mindmovies for free. One is about happiness. It is about 3 minutes long. You should watch it in the morning and in the evening.
    Please do not say that it wouldn’t help. Give it a try anyway. To buy the software online is $ 59.- which is not much.
    This is part of what I mean with getting active: To try to find a solution for a problem and not giving up t till finding it. Think that Edison maid more than 1000 tests with different elements, before the light bulb worked. Most people give up before they reach 100 tests, this is why they fail. So do not give up and be certain, there is something out there (be it a lifestyle or a medecine) which will help you.
    I wish you well and wish you to find the way to happiness.

  23. CricketB 13 years ago

    This was in a daily quote email, and it struck a bell:

    Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
      – John le Carre

  24. Patrice 13 years ago

    Great post. Definitely there’s happiness when we were able to achieved goals and when we are contented with what we have. Counting all the blessing that we receive everyday makes us feel happy.

  25. matthew ferry 13 years ago

    Living a successful life begins with becoming conscious of who you are, why you were born and what has been running your life behind the scenes. You are not hard wired for happiness.  Therefore you must learn a procedure for being happy.

  26. K-eM 13 years ago

    I’ve been learning over the last 2 years that happiness is often destroyed in the pursuit. When we get focused on what we think will make us happy, we end up missing the opportunities that come along the way and then getting depressed when what we pursue is either taken away or not as wonderful as we thought.

    I’ve been recovering from pursuing something that was taken away and that has led to new ideas. I’ve begun reducing. The culture I live in is about more, more, more. Happiness is often, I’m finding, about less, less, less.

    I grew up in a remote part of the world with no electricity and very few possessions. We were very happy. As I have been going through the grieving process of losing my dream of happiness I’ve returned to some of the things of my childhood. No, I haven’t turned off the electricity or ditched all my possessions. However, I have retaught myself to live with less electricity (light) and to reevaluate possessions I have or would acquire in a new way. Many of the most content and happy people I have met in this world have very little and so very little to worry about except their relationships and food for the next day.