We Can’t Direct the Wind, but We can Adjust Sails!!


I was browsing through the offering of Brian Johnson’s Philosophers Notes, when he commented that he had never come across a book that he would recommend to read to help live an ideal life until he read Sonja Lyubmirsky’s The How of Happiness: A Practical Guide to Getting The Life You Want: Get It Here.

The key tenet of THE HOW OF HAPPINESS is that every human being has a happiness ‘set point’ which, depending on how high or low it is, can determine how positive or negative they feel. This book offers a practical approach to help readers increase their set point, and find a level of happiness above that which they would normally feel, and feel more satisfaction in life.

“In a nutshell, the fountain of happiness can be found in how you behave, what you think, and what goals you set every day of your life. ‘There is no happiness without action.’ If feelings of passivity and futility overcome you whenever you face up to your happiness set point or to your circumstances, you must know that a genuine and abiding happiness is indeed within your reach, lying within the 40 per cent of the happiness pie chart that’s yours to guide.”

Through remarkable studies with identical twins separated at birth, scientists have discovered that about 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics and that we have what they call a “happiness set point”—a level of happiness we tend to gravitate toward. So 50% is FIXED. We can’t do anything about it. Now, there’s another 10% of our happiness that’s determined by our life circumstances. Most people spend all their energy on this variable but research shows that increasing our wealth, attractiveness and stuff like that has both a negligible and a temporary impact on our well-being. Which leads us to the 40% we want to focus on: “What makes up this 40 per cent? Besides our genes and the situations that we confront, there is one critical thing left: our behaviour. Thus the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic makeup (which is impossible) and not in changing our circumstances (i.e., seeking wealth or attractiveness or better colleagues, which is usually impractical), but in our daily intentional activities. With this in mind, our pie chart illustrates the potential of the 40 per cent that is within our ability to control, the 40 per cent for room to maneuver, for opportunities to increase or decrease our happiness levels through what we do in our daily lives and how we think.”

Part II of the book delivers 12 Happiness Activities that’s been scientifically proven to increase our happiness levels. You’ll wanna get the book to explore the various studies that have established why these activities work and we’ll highlight a few of my favourites below. For now, here they are:

1. Expressing Gratitude

2. Cultivating Optimism

3. Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison

4. Practising Acts of Kindness

5. Nurturing Social Relationships

6. Developing Strategies for Coping

7. Learning to Forgive

8. Increasing Flow Experiences

9. Savouring Life’s Joys

10. Committing to Your Goals

11. Practising Religion and Spirituality

12. Taking Care of Your Body: Meditation + Physical Activity + Acting Like a Happy Person

(Another cool point Sonja makes again and again (!) throughout the book is that it’s *essential* for us to choose activities that inspire us as we’re much more likely to follow through on those activities than doing something we think we “should” do.)

So which of the above activities do you use to get your happy on? Statements on achieving happiness differ from their approach, here are just a few:

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1. Considered one of the happiest people on the planet, His Holiness The Dalai Lama knows it is through your actions that this state is achieved.

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2. The first of the 12 activities mentioned above, expressing gratitude for the fact that recognising what we have is a powerful first step to happiness: Grateful.

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3. A moot point to remember in the dark times.

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4. As Mandy points out, It’s our daily intentional activities that ensure happiness, not those of others: Follow The Sun,

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5. I got caught at the railway gates today, it went for five minutes. The person in the car behind me was losing it, this is a little thing.

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6. Such a simple example, but beautiful in its concept: That’s Entertainment.

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7. An empowering fridge magnet to read daily.

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8. Dancing is one way I choose to do it: Feel Good.

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9. Waitley was also a founding member of the National Council for Self-Esteem and a former chairman of psychology for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sports Medicine Council. A worthy life of Happiness what a great title for the council.

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10. Happiness spreads when you release it into the world due to its infectious nature: Spread a Little Happiness.

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11. Back to the 1400’s for this quote that leaves out 50 per cent of the population. Erasmus was considered the greatest scholar of the Northern Renaissance.

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12. Out beyond the horizon of accepting your imperfections lies the land of happiness: Perfect.

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13. From the man with the most famous bedraggled hair in the world, Albert points out that giving away your happiness to people and things don’t really work.

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14. I spent many years trying to be liked by everyone, it cost me a great deal of happiness, I’m getting better at not doing it: You Can’t Please Everybody.

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15. And for our final look we return to the beginning of modern time, Seneca was around from 4 BC-AD 65. Still very relevant today though.

Pema Chodron says pretty much the same thing in her great book The Places That Scare You: “Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice. Without compassionate recognition that we are stuck, it’s impossible to liberate ourselves from confusion. ‘Doing something different’ is anything that interrupts our ancient habit of indulging in our emotions. We do anything to cut the strong tendency to spin out… Anything that’s non-habitual will do—even sing and dance or run around the block. We do anything that doesn’t reinforce our crippling habits. The third most difficult practice is to then remember that this is not something we do just once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.”

The Playlist from today’s blog is quite joyous as you would expect songs dedicated to happiness to be. Empty Hands Music begins the journey, followed by an anthem from Xavier Rudd. I sneak some rock in with the Jam next, then some EDM with Felix Jaehn and Mike Williams. It gets a little darker with Sting followed by a beautiful duet from Ed Sheeran and Beyonce ending with some old time Funk from Rose Royce: We Can’t Direct the Wind, but We can Adjust Sails!!

Namaste until next time, my dear friends.

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