The Happiness Project

happiness is helping

Alex Shalman has a lovely and ambitious project going on over at his eponymous personal development site this month. He got an impressive cross-section of people to answer a simple, five-question interview on their own feelings re: happiness, and aggregated the answers, along with some other various & sundry information.

There are some big names on the list, 800 lb self-dev gorilla, Steve Pavlina; 800 lb biz/self-dev gorilla, Tim Ferris (the 4-Hour Workweek guy); and 800 lb social media/self-dev gorilla (and my pal!) Chris Brogan.

What's neat, though, is that not all the entries are from what would explicitly call the self-dev blogging pool. And their interviews are at just as fascinating and illuminating, BoingBoing co-founder, Mark Frauenfelder and Brian "Copyblogger" Clark turned in wonderful takes that owed as much to tight writing as right perspective.

Not that there's a wrong perspective when it comes to happiness. The proof is in the pudding, and while the new, positive psychology has gone a long way towards illuminating certain consistent traits found in the happy person, ultimately, it's a pretty personal pursuit. Another internet friend of mine, Gretchen Rubin, studied happiness for a year, turning herself into a lab for the experiment, much in the way I try to do with communicatrix; it was no surprise to me that her interview was one of the best of the bunch.

Of course, I've dwelved into and on happiness here, as well as created my one-and-only Squidoo lens on the subject. But Alex is welcoming submissions, and I think it's good exercise to wrap my head around other people's questions now and again. So here are the five questions, along with my answers. If you'd like to do a little thinking and sharing, too, you can either grab the list and post to your site (don't forget to link back to Alex!) or write out your thoughts in the comments section of his post.

Either way, to borrow from one entrant, so much more happiness-inducing, to focus on the positive than its musty, sad sack cousin, Mr. Boo-hoo-hoo.

The Questions

1. How do you define happiness?

First off, to differentiate Happiness with a Capital "H" from the fleeting kind of woo-hoo! happiness, I like the phrase "deep contentment" or "private joy." I mean, I don't actually like these more, I'd have to be an utter asshole, as "happiness" is way pithier, but the word been been co-opted by too many hair care products to be truly useful anymore.

And to me, Happiness with a Capital "H" is either or both of those things: an abiding inner peace that's matched by a sort of "thrum" in the heart area. Making me the world's biggest cornball, I know.

2. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?

Until age 10, 8 or 9. From 10 - 40, around 4 or 5.

Today, praise jeebus, I'm back up to around 8 or 9. And plan on keeping it that way!

3. What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day)

It's not anything in particular, but an aggregate of right thoughts and right actions. To put it in Stephen Covey terms (I'm heavily into the 7 Habits right now), when I spend most of my time in quadrant 2 with a wee sprinkling of time in quadrant 4, I'm good. I need my quadrant 4; I've just got to be diligent about not spending too much time hiding there. (Here's the time management matrix for those of you who have yet to drink the Kool-Aid; I know, I know, I'm on the tail end of this curve.)

Oh, and a little one-on-one time with Arnie will snap me back into shape if I veer too far off course. It's good to have a short list of non-prescription mood enhancers for when Monkey Brain takes over.

4. What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?

As soon as I move off of what I have and onto what I don't, I'm tobogganing down the icy slopes of Mt. Misery. You can pick up serious speed on that sucker.

Fortunately, a quick adjustment, looking at the myriad riches of my life, usually gets me back pretty quickly. That, or remembering the days of my colon being a greased and bloody chute.

5. What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?

Committing to a life of greater service. Sharing more of what I know. Letting go of things that hold me back, and ceaselessly working to identify new outliers.

And treating myself to lots more walks with Arnie, of course...


Image by carf via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.