I’ve written several posts about happiness. In comparison to these, the “Happiness Formula” is an ongoing project. My first note dates from late July 2013 so it’s been 8 months since the Formula reflection started. Am I happy today ? It’s north of happiness. It’s akin to bliss. It's the most valuable thing I have nowadays. But I'm not holding on to it. What I’ve learnt along the way makes it so I can't help but to write this series. I hope you enjoy it.
BACK TO THE HACK
Tim Ferris’ latest book is not a cooking book. It’s a toolkit on how to hack your way to world-class mastery of any skill. The happiness formula started with a hacking mindset and a simple question : “ How to become a master at Happiness?”. Are there steps to follow? Tim Ferris suggests his DSSS technique to mastering anything:
So it seemed straightforward ... at first
- Deconstruction: Find the building blocks that make up your happiness
- Selection: Select the 20% of these blocks that will produce 80% of the desired outcome
- Sequencing: Sequence them in time so as to optimise learning
- Stakes: Set up real consequences that make failure impossible
This blog post tackles deconstruction, Post #3 delves into Selection and Sequencing, Post #4 is a surprise. This might feel like brute-forcing Happiness. It’s too cerebral of an approach. But hacking, despite its short-lived horizon, is a great way to get initial motion. Let’s try to deconstruct Happiness and figure out its building blocks.
QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERS
My own process started with loads of questions:
Bad choices? Happiness’ a strange beast mind you. At first sight, it seems happiness hinges on making good choices since bad choices generate unhappiness. You’re not happy with your job, you find your clothes dissatisfying, You’ve had unsuccessful diets, underwhelming holidays maybe. The last book you read was useless. You’re married to the wrong person. Bad choices. In ’The Architecture of Happiness’, Alain De Botton points out how our life-wretched decisions stem from the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us. So maybe what’s needed is more introspection? Is that how one deconstructs happiness: By deconstructing oneself? Finding the building blocks of the self that will help build out happiness?
Bad scale? We do measure how good or bad our choices are relative to our own standards however. If that's true, then we just need to change our own standards and scales i.e. limit our expectations, make them attainable or not use other peoples’ scales. What does that mean practically? "My husband is a d**k by all standards but to me he’s the best”. Good luck rewiring your brain for that one. Perspective rests on enhancing one’s personal relativity and it’s akin to some weird self-hypnosis. If you do change perspective, you'll be happier about your decisions and your life. It's not a magic bullet though.
Bad vibes? We’ve gotten to terms with the fact Happiness is about the moment as well. We can instinctively grasp that Happiness is not a conditional situation. Will you wait 10 years until you’re senior and earning 5 times more to be happy? Intuitively, you get this isn’t the way to be happy. Happiness is a “now or never” type of thing. So if you have a bad vibe towards the very moment, you’re probably off by a mile.
Bottom line: what's easier ? When it comes to decisions impacting happiness, should one try to understand one self deeply or just change perspective once the decision is made ? Or should one forget about decisions altogether, past, future, consequences, and delve into the moment? Which is a building block of happiness?
Models are fun :) So I tried to break down Happiness into two ingredients: One is a dynamic component (our choices) and the other one is static (our present self). Happiness is very much about 1) enjoying the present moment (static) but 2) one does need to mind the future (dynamic). Why mind the future the 'present' ones wonder? Well, dear Buddhas, if we’re playing the game of life, let’s play it the best we can.
DOWN & OUT OF THE RABBIT HOLE
I tried to model this whole reflection at one point. It got pretty cerebral. The end goal always was to strip the practice of happiness from any intellectualism though. Buckle up :) David Steindl-Rast, in his talk “Want to be happy? Be grateful” brings it down to “Stop, Look and Go”. It's an amazing paradigm. I’m using this as a foundation but flipping it a bit.
In the table, Static represents "the present moment", Dynamic "the larger scale" or "the project" of your life. Echoing the above break down between Static and Dynamic, I found this quote by Morgan Rosenberg very smart and down to earth:
I like the water analogy. Happiness has the same nature and behaviour, our decisions move it to another plane. It’s a model to try and reconcile dynamic and static happiness. I struggled for quite some time with two seemingly opposing notions 1) The moment is perfect and all you need is now 2) Everything is a work in progress, the best life is purpose-driven. 1) says no need to search for anything 2) says you are on a journey in a given direction. But the answer came as a sketch (see below) :) Nothing to do with the Happiness scale but rather to represent the journey and how Life learnings enhance moment-to-moment happiness (Static) while large-scale life decisions (Dynamic) translate the whole thing without affecting the very nature of happiness.
Still it’s confusing ?! "Static" says Stand Still and "Dynamic" says Move. How do I "Stop" and "Go" at the same time? It’s as if you’re saying “Move Still” ! But really, there’s no contradiction. These are two planes of existence that can co-exist. Your mind can always enjoy the moment and among other things enjoy planning the future :)
"There is no destination", you aren’t searching for or waiting to reach anything. You will choose a direction however and enjoy the walk. Happiness is an emotion in motion. Stop, Look and Go. Kind of reminded me of Eat - Sleep - Rave - Repeat :D Next up : The tools of a master of Happiness !