How to be happy (ier)

There is much written on how to be happy.

I have heard many “experts” talk about primary drivers that are extrinsic. Some research says nearly the opposite. Here is what I have learned:

1. Happiness is a choice but it is also has a set point for each of us.
2. Some people’s set points skew towards a higher level of happiness, others lower.

If you are lucky enough to have a higher set point, embrace it. However, be careful not to judge others from your serendipitous perspective. It seems that some are not as lucky as you.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis says that happiness incorporates multiple factors.

Stress (distress and eustress) is caused by the stories we tell ourselves. Elucidated by the parable below.

Chinese farmer Zen story

An elderly, hard-working Chinese farmer and his son, had a single horse. They used the horse to plow the field, to sow the seeds, grow the crop, and transport it to the market. The horse was essential for the farmer to earn his livelihood.

One morning, the horse broke the fence and ran away into the woods. When the neighbors found out that the only horse the farmer had, had run away, they came to solace him. They said – “Your only horse has run away just before the planting season. How will you till the land? How will you sow the seeds? This is unfortunate. This is bad luck.”

The farmer replied – “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” The wise farmer was unwilling to label this incident good luck or bad luck.

A few days later the farmer’s horse returned from the woods along with two other wild horses. When the neighbors found out the news, they said – ” Now you have three horses! You can till the land much faster with three horses. Maybe you can buy more land and sow more crop and make more money. Or you can sell the other two horses. Either way, you will be a rich man! This is good luck! “

The wise farmer repeated – “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”

Next morning, the farmer’s son started training the wild horses to that they would help till the land. While attempting to mount one of the wild horses, he fell down and broke his leg. Just before the sowing season, the son would not be able to help the farmer with his broken leg. The neighbors came once again and commented – ” This is really unfortunate. This is bad luck.

The wise farmer repeated – “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”

A few days later, the king’s men started to visit each village in the kingdom. A war had started between their kingdom and a neighboring enemy state. The king’s men were enlisting the eldest son from each family to join the army so that they could defeat the enemy state. When they came to the farmer’s house they saw the son with the broken leg. He would not be of much use in the army and hence they didn’t take him.

He was the only eldest son in the entire village who was not forcibly taken by the king’s men to fight the war. The neighbors, some of them with teary eyes, came once again to the farmer and commented – “Your son breaking his leg was really fortunate. He is the only one who was not taken. What a stroke of good luck.“

Who knows?

Other examples

The Stoics tell us that we cannot control most things that happen to us but we have complete control over how we respond to them.

Shakespeare says, “…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett purports that emotions are constructed. It seems we have near, if not complete, control over our reactions – a powerful and penetrating perception.

See her TED talk here.

All are wise. Maybe there is something to what they say.

Enjoy!…as much as you feel is appropriate for your unique happiness level. :~)

Be Exceptional!

Bill – Certified Growth Coach, Foundations in NeuroLeadership certified, PI Certified Partner, 100COACHES member coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

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