What makes you happy? Codifying happiness

This weeks post is a personal one, I like to mix it up everyone once in awhile and step away from design, our careers and entrepreneurship.  If you are here mainly for design stuff feel free to skip this one :)  One peculiar thing I like to keep note of often is my happiness levels. Seems like a weird thing to measure and quantify but when I’m in a introspective mood it’s something that I think about often. It’s usually every few months that I pause and do a bit of self reflection. Sometimes it’s when I’m driving, in the shower, or super early in the morning. And it always happens when I am alone, when there is some form of stillness and I can really listen to my thoughts and reflect. Like a natural clock the thought will appear by serendipity. How happy are you today I’d think to myself, what’s going right, what’s going wrong and then to how lucky I am to be alive. 

Whilst I’m a positive person, I’d hate to come across as delusionally happy or that the world is all fine and dandy, and that it’s a perfect place, I’m well aware it’s fucking not. I’m a realest.  Not the faux instagram “I’m so happy”, positive vibes, motivational quotes only type person. I’ve had dark times and times of immense stress and self doubt just like everyone else. Times of frustration or anger. That the weight of the world was on my shoulders. But if I had to average it all out I’ve been very happy throughout it all. If I were to die today, I’ve lived a good life. Seems like a morbid thing to say, but to me it’s a positive, it means I’ve prioritised and designed my life in a way that has focuses on the right things in my short 30 years of existence. Moving with the ebbs and flows of life, whilst putting in a conscious effort towards steering it into the direction that I want, and finding joy in the everyday. 


Most of all I’m aware that I lucked out by having my brain wired like this. One thump to the head and it can all change. A slight chemical imbalance and see you later good vibes. So I always like to codify why I think the way that I do. To look objectively and see what’s working and see if I can clearly write down what I’ve learnt works for me and what I value.


And hopefully it may just work for another person out there. As a matter of fact these habits were something I really only noticed until recently. And it’s one of the few times where I have an outlet to share it with others. Apart from my wife I’ve never brought up this topic with anyone else.  So it means a lot to be able to share it with you. 


It’s been said that nearly as much as half of our happiness levels are from our genetics. Researchers at the University of Minnesota did a study where they “tracked identical twins who were separated as infants and raised by separate families. As genetic carbon copies brought up in different environments, these twins are a social scientist’s dream, helping us disentangle nature from nurture. These researchers found that we inherit a surprising proportion of our happiness at any given moment — around 48 percent.” Quoted from NYTimes article A formula for happiness.


The rest is our circumstances and a good portion of the remaining percentage is within our control. In the way we think and the way we see the world. This is something that you can actively practice as a muscle. To put things into perspective and to see the positive in things. Or to see it is a test of will, a hurdle for you to overcome to become a better person. 

Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you

JIM CAREY


 

Of course this is an easy catch phrase, and like so many motivational posters and freaking instagram type posts, it has no true meaning until you live it, resonate with it and actualise it. 

So here is method that  I use: 
I start thinking about how happy am I today vs. yesterday? I put it on a scale of 1-10. Is today a 9? A 6? Or a 8?  Then I try to think back to a few years ago. And compare the difference. Sometimes my immediate circumstances may seem better to other people looking in. You might have more money, more success, nicer things, but none of that truly matters, that’s the external stuff. The way you think, how you see the world and your happiness is what counts. Once you quantify the number keep track of it overtime. What did you do today? What parts of it were awesome, what parts of it sucked, what parts are you grateful for?


Overtime you want to do more of the things that you enjoy, (play tennis, design, build businesses, help other people) and less of the things that suck (meetings for the sake of meetings, being frustrated, feeling unhealthy) Actively try to find the joy and beauty in the everyday, because it’s easy to miss it in our hurried and ‘busy’ lives. And then keep reassessing every once in awhile. Check in with yourself, and then write down a list of things that hold true to you.

Think about your life up until this very point, what over the course of your life has brought you joy? If you had to make a list and quantify a set of principles or things that you realise make you happy what would it be. What have you found to be true?  Over time these are the things I’ve found personally true to me, perhaps they can resonate with you too and strike a chord with what you value. This is how I’ve codified happiness to me

  • Happiness is in your ability to handle suffering
  • Happiness is in gratitude - have perspective
  • Happiness is in learning
  • Happiness is in bringing joy to others
  • Happiness is in purpose
  • Happiness is in gradual improvement (exercise, building and learning)
  • Happiness is in how truly you can express yourself everyday(learn to know yourself first)
  • Happiness occurs when you are in a state of flow – the world fades away and there is only one task in front of you, time is no longer a variable.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyii – flow
  • Happiness is in human connection
  • Happiness is in savouring the moment – music, food, sights, feelings
  • Happiness is not about always having things going right – whether or not you are always smiling, but the embracing of all emotions and events that come your way
  • Happiness is in being healthy
  • Happiness lies in finding your own path


I’ve had a couple of articles, books and videos that have had a positive effect on my life. At one point or another these little things helped me see the world with the lens that I see with today.  


Leo Babauta – Zen habits 

https://zenhabits.net/perfect/

(One of the earlier articles I read, but the whole catalog of Leo’s writing is great)


Life is easy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21j_OCNLuYg


Work as play

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8130_-3d3PA


The monk who sold his Ferrari

https://www.amazon.com/Monk-Who-Sold-His-Ferrari/dp/0062515675


Jiro dreams of sushi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1UDS2kgqY8

(This is a weird one, but the idea of a pursuit of craft and a life’s work seemed very profound to me.) 


Happiness is already there, all you need to do is codify to yourself so you have the tools to unearth it daily. Finally I wish you every bit of happiness.


I’d like to put a disclosure here: I’m not a guru, far from it. I’m just some guy on the internet. I like to share stories, my experiences and some of the thing that has worked for me as a person. This may not relate to you, but over years it has been the people who have generously shared their stories and knowledge that has had a wonderful effect on the way I see the world. And so I’d like to pay that forward.  I’d hate to be the fucking self help guy, these are merely my thoughts and maybe just maybe it might strike a chord with you.