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Weekly 3: How to be happy

Summary: Show your appreciation. Aim for more than happiness. Be mindful of your mortality. (~5 min r

Idea Journal Weekly 3

September 30 · Issue #54 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Show your appreciation. Aim for more than happiness. Be mindful of your mortality. (~5 min read)

#1. Telling someone you appreciate them has multiple benefits.
Author and happiness expert Nataly Kogan writes in her book Happier Now that practicing gratitude is useful because it can help you persevere through difficult times, and also amplify the good in your life when things are going okay.
One simple but powerful way to experience the benefits of gratitude is to show your appreciation for someone through an exercise she calls “I appreciate you.”
The exercise only takes a few minutes, and here’s how to do it in 2 steps:
  1. Think about someone you appreciate. They could be a colleague, family member, friend, or someone else, but without them your life would be less fulfilling or fun.
  2. Take out your phone and send them a short message telling them that you appreciate them, and why. The message only needs to be 1 or 2 sentences, but it’s important to be specific. They need to know what you value in them because they themselves may not realize that they’re important to you, or how they specifically support you.
For Kogan, this exercise is “the fastest way to get out of my head and shift my energy to feel more uplifted.”
But the benefits extend beyond the person expressing appreciation – the exercise also makes the recipient happier.
As Kogan puts it: Who doesn’t want to be reminded that they’re meaningful?
#2. Being happy isn't enough.
Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes in a blog post that when you’re making important life decisions, you should always consider the following 3 factors:
  1. What makes you happy
  2. What’s smart – good for you in the long run
  3. What’s useful to other people
As Sivers points out, you’ll know you’re on the right path when your decision is at the intersection of all 3.
The problem is that we tend to forget at least 1 of these factors, as illustrated by the below profiles.
The overachiever: smart and useful (not happy)
This is the stereotype of the strict parent who says:
You have to go to the best school, get perfect grades, become a doctor or lawyer, and make a lot of money. What you want to do doesn’t matter – this is what’s best for you and your family.
The smart and useful approach is rational, like a machine.
But if you don’t have happiness acting as the oil, “the friction kills the engine.”
The self-improvement addict: happy and smart (not useful)
This person is always learning, and is obsessively focused on how to be happy and create a perfect life.
What could be wrong with that?
For Sivers, the problem is that becoming fulfilled and successful isn’t a solo exercise: “Ultimately you must be lifted by those around you.”
The “charity volunteer”: happy and useful (not smart)
After graduating from an expensive university, this person spends years “flying to exotic impoverished places to dig wells and thatch roofs.”
But if their time could be worth $200 per hour, and they’re doing work that the locals themselves could be do better for $10 per hour, then their actions are actually a disservice to others.
They have wonderful intentions but poor strategies, resulting in “wasted effort and unused potential.”
The hedonist: just happy (not smart or useful)
For this person, being happy is all that matters.
But there are 2 downsides:
  1. You’ll be full of regret if you only think about today, and don’t prepare for tough times in the future.
  2. If you only serve yourself and not others, you’ll eventually feel unrewarded.
#3. Are you living a meaningful life?
In his book A Whole New Mind, author Dan Pink references the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, which suggests that the highest level of happiness a person can achieve is the pursuit of meaning.
This is the point at which you not only have positive feelings about your past, present, and future – you’re also aware of your particular strengths, and are applying them to something larger than yourself.
Pink recommends taking what he calls the “20-10 test” to uncover what matters most to you.
Imagine that you had $20 million in the bank, or that you only had 10 years left to live.
Would you spend the rest of your days the way you spend them now?
From a practical standpoint, this test by itself can’t determine the course of your life.
But it can be clarifying: if your answer to the above question is No, that should tell you something.
Quote of the Week
“If you have your why for life, you can get by with almost any how.”
- Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his book Twilight of the Idols
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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