Being a bit of a Buddhist at heart, I subscribe to the axiom that experience "cuts." Simply put, when you climb steep mountains, when you aspire to meaningful accomplishments, when you put yourself out there emotionally, with true skin in the game, you will get cut. And being sliced up, hurts. That's just the way that it is.
Unfortunately, human nature is to convert the real "physicality" of pain into a confused state. We do this by attaching our egos to the suffering at hand, and giving birth to a discursive thought that begins with the question, "Why is this happening to me?"
Given that, how is it that some of us come through the grist mill of life basically happy and contented, while others get chewed up, ending up as disconsolate, broken spirits?
In other words, is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life?
'What Makes Us Happy?' by Joshua Wolf Shenk (in the June issue of The Atlantic) is a thought-provoking article that tries to answer this question based on the conclusions of a multi-decade Harvard study, as summarized here:
For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.
Here is excerpt that captures one fundamental element to being happy; namely that perspective is everything:
"Yet, even as he takes pleasure in poking holes in an innocent idealism, Vaillant says his hopeful temperament is best summed up by the story of a father who on Christmas Eve puts into one son’s stocking a fine gold watch, and into another son’s, a pile of horse manure. The next morning, the first boy comes to his father and says glumly, 'Dad, I just don’t know what I’ll do with this watch. It’s so fragile. It could break.' The other boy runs to him and says, 'Daddy! Daddy! Santa left me a pony, if only I can just find it!'"
So what makes us happy? Relationships (esp. with siblings), living a productive life, maintaining a healthy perspective, and beyond that, it's murky.
Read the full article HERE. It's pretty illuminating.
- A Mantra on Illumination, Devotion and Faith: Replacing cynicism with spiritual faith, and a devotion to a life path.
- Crazy Wisdom as Rome Burns: Achieving clarity in times of great chaos.
- Hold a Picture in your Pocket: Cognitive dissonance and manifesting change.
- On Intellectual Honesty: See things as they really are; act on that knowledge.