My Framework for Living Happiness

Like anyone, I have had my share of dark days and low points. When I sit and reflect on when these were most pronounced, it seems my high school years pop up a lot: perhaps the challenges of fitting in, peer pressure, demanding school requirements, girls (of course!), etc. When I entered college and began a new chapter in my life, I started seeking out tools and keys to happiness, wanting to avoid the pain I experienced in high school. I learned quickly that while I could not wipe out pain forever, I could learn to minimize negative feelings and change the way I perceive them (i.e. my internal dialogue during troubling moments) and increase habits that create and foster happiness.

Happiness is a great thing, and the quest to find happiness has been, well, happy! Over the years as I came across tactics, skills, lessons, and insights, I developed my own personal set of rules and principles, my own framework. While I am no expert in the perfect formula for happiness, I keep coming back to the following three categories and therefore my research, focus, and experimentation has revolved around them.

Mental & Emotional Well-Being

One of the greatest gifts we have is consciousness and our rational faculty. Yet, sometimes our thoughts can get the better of us and run us into the ground. If we are willing to spend hours exercising our physical bodies, we need to spend even more time exercising our minds. We can train what we focus on and how we think about the world around us. Therefore, I have had a tremendous amount of success with meditation, prayer, priming exercises, the study of flow and peak states, and invocation. While some of these are specific to certain religious and spiritual practices I subscribe to, many of them are areligious and therefore usable by anyone. In recent years I have been most interested in the later.

Since many of my unhappy memories come from my adolescence years, I realized that emotional immaturity was a big part of how I found myself in those situations. Part of learning about mental well-being is also mastering behavior and emotions. In this regards, I found that it is possible to train your behavioral responses to triggers that usually cause unhappiness and stress. Mastering this skill (which I have not) is a fundamental tool to achieve happiness.

Peak Physical Health

I travel a lot and the experience of crossing over many time zones, sitting in a chair for extended hours, change in diet, etc., has been physically traumatic. One time in particular I was in the Vatican running a big project for an important client. There was a very tense negotiation I was leading and the two parties were in separate rooms and on different floors! I had to run back and forth and up and down several flights of stairs. After about ten minutes of this, I almost collapsed. I knew rationally I should have been able to handle more, but physically my body wasn’t there. The result? I was definitely not happy! I realized at that moment that my body needed to be in a peak physical state to carry out the level of work I demand from myself.

This specific incident was a catalyst to find the fastest, most effective way to get in shape, eat right, and maintain this despite the work schedule, the kids’ schedule, and the turbulence of day-to-day life. I am grateful that the organic and healthy food movement has taken off with such strength in recent years to provide more and more options. This has certainly made it easier. However, a deeper knowledge of how food is grown, how it has altered, and how it is produced is of vital importance. Especially if you travel to the places I travel to in which the healthy brands we are used to simply don’t exist.

A necessary correlation to this is the need take care of the body when it’s ill. To do this effectively, I have come to realize that the body works in conjunction with the soul, and not alone. (Just go with it, and we can explain later!) Therefore, I am interested in holistic and alternative forms of medicine, particularly homeopathy. This has been a wonderful journey in learning about the wisdom of ancient medicine, and modern efforts to practice them. I am also grateful that my wife is a trained homeopath and has not only helped educate me, but treat me as well!

Contribution

The third pillar of my happiness framework is contribution. Whenever I review my happy moments, I found that they were linked to times of service to others: teaching (which I luckily do regularly), helping (mentoring high school entrepreneurship programs), or aiding in some capacity (like volunteering). Since much of my work is in the space of social entrepreneurship, I have found great joy in giving money and other resources to those in need and watching this act transform lives. The discipline of running a charity and a social business has taught me an important lesson: you only really own what you give away, constructively. Now, I’m not advocating giving everything away, because I believe true charity needs to be both blind (i.e. given to those most in need without concern for their religious, cultural, or political disposition) and sustainable. However, contribution in its many forms is a cornerstone of being happy. In my quest to find lasting happiness, I spend a great deal of time seeing how I can give back more and catalyze sustainable change.

 

 

 

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