What makes you happy? As we wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on this timeless question.
You probably already realize that piles of possessions by themselves aren’t enough. But it may be less clear what does generate enduring happiness and how we, as your trusted advisor, might be one of your core alliances for discovering it.
First, let’s define what we’re talking about. We are fond of this description by “The Happiness Advantage” author, popular TED Talk presenter, and Harvard researcher Shawn Achor:
“Happiness … isn’t just about feeling good,
it’s about the joy we feel while striving after our potential.”
Such a simple statement, but it’s packed with profound insights. To take this even further, I believe that we get closer to our potential when we focus more on others rather than our own well being. That is, being generous towards others plays a big part in achieving sustained contentment and joy. It is quite the paradox (that we get the most when we give the most), but it has been believed through the ages and proven more recently in the research.
Happiness isn’t about indulging in fleeting pleasures.
In fact, it’s closer to the opposite of that. If you can only be happy once you’ve “scored,” you are limiting your joy to isolated incidents instead of weaving it into the fabric of your life.
You can still be happy, even when life isn’t all puppies and rainbows.
Distinguishing enduring happiness from occasional pleasures frees us to enjoy even our most challenging experiences, and to savor them as among our fondest memories. It’s why we may willingly burn the midnight oil on a project of deep interest. Pay a personal trainer to push us harder than we’ve ever gone before. Volunteer our hearts and minds to others in need. Give birth.
Everyone has different sources of happiness, but the joy it can spread is universal.
In a world that sometimes seems increasingly polarized, a greater appreciation for happiness might just bring us closer together. As Achor comments: “Joy makes us want to invest more deeply in the people around us. … It makes us want to learn more about our communities. It makes us want to be able to find ways of being able to make this a better external world for all of us.”
By coming together to focus on what sustains us – an optimistic outlook, value-driven action, meaningful relationships – therein we can find greater happiness. That’s what the evidence suggests, anyway.
Again, we wish you a most Happy Thanksgiving!