The First Happiness “Sin”: De-Valuing Happiness
Imagine that a Genie appears in front you and grants you three wishes. Before making your wishes, assume that the Genie is all-knowing and all-powerful. So, don’t limit yourself in any way; imagine that the Genie has the power to grant you any wish you make.What three wishes would you make?
Take the time to consider, write it down and save:
Most people have little trouble in answering The Genie Question, and their wish list usually reads something like this:Wish #1: A great deal of money—enough to cover any and all expensesWish #2: Stupendous success and its accoutrements: fame, power, and respectWish #3: Great/fulfilling relationships, especially with family and friends
The goal of this task is to open our eyes to how we devaluate our own happiness. While happiness is a very important goal for most people, we still downplay it, making important life decisions. So we regularly sacrifice our happiness in pursuing other goals.
Now read your three wishes. Is one of them you to be happy or you have wished for things you think will make you happy? Are you among the people, which underestimate the importance of being happy?The First Habit of the Highly Happy: Prioritizing, but not Pursuing Happiness.
It turns out that when making important decisions, we do not think we should look for the answer to the question - whether it will make us happier. That is why it is good to remind ourselves that we have to take decisions that improve our happiness, but it is important to not pursue or to chase happiness. Why? Because, when one pursues happiness, one is likely to compare how one feels with how one would ideally like to feel, and since we generally want to feel happier than we currently do, we are likely to feel unhappy about being unhappy if we pursue happiness!
So, the question is: how does one pull off this delicate balancing act—of prioritizing, and yet, not pursuing, happiness?
One way is to consider how we achieve some other important goals in life that, like happiness, cannot be pursued directly. Consider sleep. Constantly watching out for the moment that you fall asleep and telling yourself, “there! I almost fell asleep!” is a better recipe for staying awake than it is for dozing off. A better way to get a good night’s sleep is to take some steps—like eating a light dinner, reading a book — that increase the odds of falling asleep, but then, having taken these steps, not monitor whether one is about to fall asleep. That’s the way to prioritize, but not pursue, sleep. Similarly we can take some steps that increase the odds of being happy.
That brings us two steps for increasing the odds of experiencing happiness on a more regular basis: 1) Defining happiness
and 2) Incorporating happiness.
Defining happiness means figuring out what happiness means to you. This step is important because without knowing what happiness means to you, it’s difficult to give it greater priority. This is not an easy task, but the first happiness exercise will help you do just that - to define what makes you happy and then incorporate happiness within your priorities.The First Happiness Exercise – Defining and Incorporating Happiness
To prioritise (not pursue) happiness, it is very important to gain clarity on what happiness means to you. It is also important to find out what things (stimuli, activities) make you happy in the way you define it.Objective
This exercise will help you:
(1) gain a sharper, more concrete understanding of what happiness means to you, and
(2) identify the things (stimuli, activities) that lead you to experience the state you equate with happiness.Steps
This exercise has two steps:
1. In the first step – defining happiness – you have to consider which emotional experience you relate to the term „happiness“. “Happiness” could be defined in many different ways, as:
• Authentic pride
• Hubristic pride
Happiness can also be defined as:
• Gratitude: the sense of the benefit we get from someone or something.
• Serenity: the feeling that things are developing in the right way; this feeling is usually accompanied by peace and tranquillity.
• Inspiration: the feeling that comes from something exciting and emotionally uplifting.
• Worship: the sense of a miracle or worship of something powerful, which fills us with admiration.
• Hope: the feeling that things will work out the best.
• Fun / Laughter: fun and playful experience.
• Interest: Challenge and awakening of your curiosity.
Consider each of the above points and ask yourself which ones you are most drawn to. Then form your own definition of happiness. It can be a combination of two or more emotional experiences or an entirely different type of feeling.
2. As a second step think of 2-4 things/situations/activities that lead you to the feeling of happiness in the way that you have defined it.
Try to specify three to four things - more if only you can - which surely help you experience the feeling of "happiness". Then, write them on a piece of paper and if you are ready to do so, stick it somewhere you will often see it - such as the mirror in your bathroom or the door of your wardrobe.