What (More Than) Happy People Do Differently

Be Abundant

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Key Point: As I get more gnarly, I appreciate how much life involves embracing paradox. Many people have asked me about my insights on their pursuit of happiness at work, home, and just life in general. My answer typically is related to finding more than just happiness, including meaning, purpose, acting with generosity, and living the Character Triangle. Subsequently, I found the following very interesting:

“One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable, and occasionally bad.” What Happy People Do Differently is a Psychology Today article by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan, published on July, 2. 

 The following highlights their research and I am going to embrace their conclusions as subsets of perspectives I share. The headings are my thoughts while the italics are comments from their research that, conveniently of course, supports my views :).

Character Moves:

  1. Avoid the “perfection trap.” “This is not to say that we should take a laissez-faire attitude to all our responsibilities; paying attention to detail is helpful. But too much focus on minutiae can be exhausting and paralyzing. The happiest among us (cheerfully) accept that striving for perfection— and a perfectly smooth interaction with everyone at all times— is a loser’s bet.”
  2. Take a risk and don’t be afraid to skin your knees. “There are plenty of instances in life where the best way to increase your satisfaction is to simply do what you know feels good, whether it’s putting your favorite song on the jukebox or making plans to see your best friend. But from time to time, it’s worth seeking out an experience that is novel, complicated, uncertain, or even upsetting—whether that means finally taking the leap and doing karaoke for the first time or hosting a screening of your college friend’s art-house film. The happiest people opt for both so that they can benefit, at various times, from each.”
  3. Be Abundant: Be a giver not a matcher or taker. “In life, it seems, there are an abundance of Florence Nightingales waiting to show their heroism. What’s precious and scarce are those people who can truly share in others’ joy and gains without envy. So while it might be kind to send flowers to your friend when she’s in the hospital for surgery, you’ll both derive more satisfaction out of the bouquet you send her when she finishes medical school or gets engaged.”
  4. Accept that $#!& happens and embrace negative emotions. “Similar to training for a triathlon, learning the skill of emotional discomfort is a task best taken on in increasing increments. For example, instead of immediately distracting yourself with an episode of The Walking Dead or pouring yourself a whiskey the next time you have a heated disagreement with your teenage son, try simply tolerating the emotion for a few minutes. Over time, your ability to withstand day-to-day negative emotions will expand.”
  5. Be both present and aspirational. “If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning. Indeed, research by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has revealed that making advances toward achievement of our goals not only causes us to feel more engaged, it actually helps.”
  6. Recognize there is more to a fulfilled life than happiness. “As well-being researchers, we don’t deny the importance of happiness—but we’ve also concluded that a well-lived life is more than just one in which you feel “up.” The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well autonomy, mastery, and belonging.”

More than Happiness in The Triangle,

Lorne