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Happiness 101

Wriky and Bitsy, the picture of happiness

“When beginning a journey, it helps to have an idea where one is headed.”

If there is one subject which can intrigue so many, it would have to be that of happiness. Just this last May, the UAE appointed a Minister of Happiness and simultaneously launching a Guide to Happiness and Well-being at the workplace. There also exists a Happiness Research Institute located in Copenhagen. No doubt the concept of being happy has been part of human conversation since we had the capacity to speak. Although it has been contemplated and written about by some of the greatest minds throughout human history, there still exists no textbook or system guaranteeing a successful outcome.

It’s a bit ironic that while happiness is one of the most desired conditions, very little formal education is available to help us achieve this coveted goal. Even if there were, what would a course on Happiness 101 look like anyway? Over the next few weeks, I will be outlining that course as if I were commissioned to teach one.

The first day of class would begin with 10 quotes from several periods throughout history; beginning with some of the earliest manuscripts and ending with a contemporary observation. Each would cite major religions and cultures covering a wide array of ideas about happiness and how to achieve it. For example, Aristotle wrote more about happiness than any other author prior to the modern era. To him, it was the central purpose and goal of human life. Also included would be quotes from the Beatitudes and what Jesus taught of their promises. After reading each comment, there would be an open discussion and questions asked to elicit thoughts and opinions from the students.

After all 10 quotes were read and deliberated, the focus would next change to a more personal level. Each student would be asked to define what happiness means to them on an individual basis. This is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in achieving this much-desired theme because although we truly yearn for it, do we genuinely know what its meaning is to us personally?

As a coach and consultant, I often ask clients to define what happiness signifies to them. One thing I’ve discovered is that its definition is different for just about everyone. Nevertheless, it’s vital each person figure out what they initially believe will create fulfillment in their lives. Otherwise, it would be similar to setting out on a journey and having no idea where you’re headed or if you’ve even arrived!

Another example of those searching for happiness are posts which intimate that finding the right partner will provide it. While there is some truth to that, we can’t relegate or expect that our happiness will only be possible through another person. We must first be willing to find our own happiness and then that partner will be there to enhance and multiply it.

The other big one is the accumulation of wealth. We’ve all heard the saying “Money can’t buy happiness” yet so many people advertise, “I’ll help you increase your wealth.” Why don’t they instead brag, “I’ll help you increase your happiness”? The reason is money is measurable; happiness is not quite so easy to ascertain. I, for one, am up to that challenge.

What truly makes me happy is helping others. This, however, is perhaps one of the biggest ironies in life. If I concentrate solely on my efforts and what makes me happy, the best way to achieve this is only possible by including others. Frankly, I am thankful and wouldn’t want it any other way.

What defines happiness for you? This is your homework assignment and you’ll get extra credit by writing it in the comments. I hope you’re looking forward to the next class.

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