First the Truth.
Happiness is not a destination. It is not someplace you ‘get to’ and unpack your suitcase and settle in for an extended stay.
Happiness is an emotion that only exists in our mind. It is a feeling created by our brain we attribute to external events and circumstances.
It is impossible to aspire to ‘be happy’ because nothing that occurs outside of your brain actually causes happiness. No person or material possession makes you happy.
The statement “I want to be happy” makes about as much sense as declaring “I want to be a pepperoni pizza.”
Stated simply, happiness is an imagined state created by chemicals in our brain.
While happiness is ultimately little more than a (positive) hallucination, it turns out happiness is a damn good emotion to feel and certainly beats the alternative.
A Predictor for Happiness?
As I explained above, you can’t actually aspire to happiness and simply doing something that gives us pleasure does not create happiness in an ongoing or sustainable way. That said, I have found a metric that allows you to accurately predict whether the feeling of happiness is likely to show up.
This Happiness Index as I refer to it uses the concept of what I call ‘Gives‘ as a strong predictor of happiness.
A ‘Give‘ includes any activity you engage in that requires investment of your energy to serve another human. Activities you might perform include giving of your time or your money or anything of value to another person.
There is a catch. Activities performed based on an expectations of return (such as direct or social compensation, a return favor, or even appreciation) don’t contribute to this happiness index.
Try It Yourself
Why not test this Happiness Index for yourself? Over the next few weeks, I’d like you to track your ‘gives’ along with your relative feeling of happiness.
1) Beginning next Sunday, find a few quiet moments (10-15 minutes should suffice) and write down the number of ‘gives‘ you performed during the previous seven days. Don’t worry about capturing specific details of each instance, a simple count is all you need.
2) Next write down the percent of time you believe you spent in a state of general happiness over the last seven days. Stated simply: What percent of the time did you feel happy?’
3) As you reflect on the week ahead, set an goal for the number of ‘gives‘ you intend to perform over the next seven days. Don’t worry about how you will attain this goal.
This exercise works best when you write down your performance and goals rather than just think about them. You can use a small notebook or notes app on your phone.
It may look something like this.
Date (August 7th)
Gives Last 7 Days (5)
Happiness Index (60%)
Gives Goal Next 7 Days (6)
Leave a comment and let me know how this exercise is working for you or share your results.