By Matt Cardwell
Good article on Yahoo about how attitude and perception impacts your overall happiness.
Seemed apropos in light of Corey’s entry yesterday on the importance of being recognized for your hard work. One of the most interesting take-aways from the article (and Corey alluded to this as well) is the importance of self-reflection to realizing happiness. When we think about the things that make us happy or unhappy, we often frame them in terms of external events–things that happen to us: marriage, birth of a child, death, illness. Yet some of the happiest, most content people I know have struggled with great personal loss, physical challenge, or ongoing illness. Conversely, some of those whose lives seem to roll along with hardly a bump in the road are some of the most unhappy people I know. So external events aren’t really that critical to happiness, after all, it seems.
What’s going on here?
I know the answer will seem like a cliché, but that makes it no less true: It’s your attitude. And attitude is really a product of reflecting on yourself and the world and choosing what things you will see and focus on: the positive or the negative. The Yahoo article discusses a cool exercise that asks you at the end of the day to pick three good things that happened that day and analyze why and how they happened. I was intrigued by this and decided to try it myself last night. Here’s what I came up with:
- Coached one of my team members on how to push a challenging project ahead. This happened because I cleared 30 minutes out of my schedule to sit down with her, listen and then help her come up with some possible solutions.
- E-mailed my wife a bunch of pictures of Persian cats that are up for adoption locally. She lost her cat of 11 years last week, and I knew this would make her a little less sad. It actually turned out to make her very happy.
- Had a good workout at the gym last night, which made me feel much less guilty for eating all of that pecan pie over the weekend. It happened because I made a commitment the entire day to go last night no matter how unmotivated I might feel at the end of the workday. Every time I started to second-guess my commitment, I reminded myself of how much better I’d feel afterward. It worked. I went, I feel great, I avoided a rut and I’m going back tonight for more. Bring it on.
Three simple things. Three things that made me happy and they had NOTHING to do with things happening to me. The other really cool thing is that for some reason I had to think really hard to remember something that made me unhappy today. I know they were there, but they kind of just slide in and out and don’t really stick. Try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
By the way, if you’re interested in gauging where you are at on the “Happiness Scale,” check out the Authentic Happiness Web site from The University of Pennsylvania. Lots of interesting surveys you can take. It requires a free registration, but in addition to hopefully learning more about yourself, you’ll also be contributing to further academic research on what makes people happy. Performance was a little slow when I visited, but I think that’s a product of the additional traffic the article was driving to the site. Hopefully that will clear up in a day or so.