Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Meaning of Happiness

Hmmmmmm...  The Meaning of Happiness... 

I kinda like Wikipedia's definition, as in it being "a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy."  And it goes on to suggest that, "A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources."

Every time we take on this line of thinking, though, doesn't happiness ultimately boil down to the last part of that statement?  I mean, the biggest challenge -- for you and for me -- seems to have so much to do with identifying the sources of happiness, or discovering exactly what makes us happy.
My guess is that a lot of folks are already thinking about money -- or the lack there of -- as one major cause of being either happy or unhappy.  Yet, a quick Internet search will find all sorts of wild tales about people who came into riches and quickly lost it all -- see "21 lottery winners who blew it all" and "Lottery Horror Stories That Will Make You Think Twice About Buying That Ticket" as examples of what I'm getting at. 
Closer to my kind of thinking...  Years ago, a friend asked me to stop at a convenience store in a not-so-nice part of a city back in Massachusetts.  As I waited in my car, I watched a pantomime starring a bedraggled young lady sitting on a curb and scratching lottery ticket after lottery ticket.  Oh, I might have felt badly for the young lady -- she truly was a mess, but I told my friend as she got into the car, "See that girl over there?  Even if she does hit big on one of those tickets, she'll be broke in no time, mainly because I can almost tell she doesn't have the skill-set or mentality to live smartly and make that money last."  
Honestly, I don't want to come off meanly on this topic, but please do consider what I'm trying to suggest.  Anyway, let me come back to the issue of money a little later.

Now, I'm an older guy, and I've seen and experienced plenty in my time on this planet.  My soulmate, Brenda, is 20-years younger than I, but she'll be the first to tell you that she's an "old soul".  In fact, we'd both been through a lot -- I mean a REAL lot -- before meeting, and I sense that has brought us to pretty close to the same feelings when it comes to happiness.

What do I think are the feelings we share on this topic?  I believe it's to put a premium on a combination of relatively good physical and mental health.  Oh, God and genetics will in a way determine those.  But so can Brenda and I influence both.  In fact, I don't think many folks will argue with the probability that our mental status will have a huge bearing on our physical health.  Ya, keeping a rosy attitude -- something that seems to come naturally to both Brenda and me -- seems the first step in our striving for happiness.
With my mom aging and ailing, we're now living with and caring for her in a nice retirement community in Central Florida.  If there's a problem, that puts us smack dab in the middle of a lot of sickness.  I mean, as many of my mom's neighbors drive walkers and wheelchairs as automobiles.  Making matters worse, such surroundings make it difficult for us to avoid talk about this ache, that pain, this illness and the person in apartment #___ who just passed away.  
Then, here's something interesting from my 40+ years in hockey coaching...  More times than not, I discovered that an oft injured or oft sick player was the son of a nurse or doctor.  I'm not kidding about that.  I great defenseman, who always seemed dinged in one limb or another, turned out to be the son of a top sports medicine doctor.  And the talented young forward, who was always quoting the Latin terms for the muscles that hurt him, was also the son of a doctor.  It didn't end there, either, because there were as many kids belonging to nurses who similarly limped on a regular basis, and weren't sure if they'd be able to participate in the next shift or the next game.  My thinking was/is that medical issues were a constant topic of conversation around their households.  And, while I'm not blaming anyone, I am pointing to the probability that thinking and constantly talking about unhealthy things leads one to, sooner or later, take on those very symptoms.
If I could add one more element to happiness -- beyond good mental and physical health, I'd have to suggest that happy people mostly do things they love.  Actually, I covered this pretty intently in an early post called "Performing Within Your Areas of Brilliance".  Case in point...  I spent a number of miserable years in a job others picked for me, and one that would sound pretty good from a distance.  Thank God I dared walk away from that job, to submerge myself in a sport and lifestyle I absolutely love.  Or, as that past article explains, I've been able to feel successful doing things I'm usually pretty good at.
Of course, the above has a lot to do with what we choose as a career.  At the same time, I have to suggest that it also involves what we do with our spare time.  
I can recall old friends telling me they got their relaxation from things like a hot bath, reading a good book, or taking a brisk walk.  If there was something wrong with those examples, my friends seemed just as tense and unhappy after doing what they said relaxed them.  ???   
Am I suggesting we shouldn't lie to ourselves about what does or what doesn't make us happier?  Ya, you bet.   
Summing things up to this point, I'll suggest that happiness can be found in 1) having an extremely positive attitude or mindset, 2) being reasonably physically healthy, and 3) spending the bulk of our time on things we truly love.
Personalizing all this...
I built what I believe is an awesome post around a video by my Internet marketing friend, Sean D'Souza.  The article is called "Three Obstacles To Happiness", and it gave me the opportunity to describe two things Brenda and I have found contributing to our good health and positive states of mind.  I'm talking about taking nighttime walks together right after dinner, and spending some time each afternoon at the swimming pool.  And, while it's by no means a scientific study, I truly believe I've felt worse during times when life got in the way, and we were unable to do those two very simple things.
When it comes to money, don't let any of what I said above sound like I don't like it or want it.  To the contrary, I've been both fairly well off and not so well off, and you can just imagine which I'd choose.  All I tried to convey earlier is that the green stuff isn't the end all to be all, and it isn't going to help us if we're not mentally and physically well, and mostly doing things we enjoy doing.
Then, one other thing about money...  
In Internet marketing circles, a lot is made about the negatives of trading time for money.  In other words, we punch a clock at 9am, punch out a 5pm, and only get paid on days when we do just that -- trading our 40-hours of labor for the weekly paycheck.  I'm not knocking all those who perform traditional jobs, and keep our economy and our American way of life going.  I'm only suggesting that there is also another -- maybe better -- way.
Ya, that other way is through what's referred to as "residual income".  That mode of making a living has been around for years, but it's even more prevalent today owing to the Internet.  In its most basic sense, digital and other products can now be offered online, and the sales can be carried out online without the seller's personal attention.
Understand that earning a residual income isn't necessarily easier, it's just different from a traditional job.  For example, I busted my buns to write the two books offered over in the right margin, and I can guarantee you that I spent more than 40-hours putting everything together.  What's different, though, is that I don't have to keep rewriting that book -- or keep producing one of my videos -- each time I record a sale.  As a matter of fact, I'm hoping my heirs keep reaping the benefits of those products long after I'm gone.  
Almost in the residual income category is my membership website -- which takes an awful lot of behind the scenes work, and my new Hockey Talk Radio station.  
The similarity in all those projects is that -- while I have to work some long and hard hours for each, I'm able to choose the hours I wish to work.  In other words, if Brenda and I want to take a break and get some exercise in the pool, I can take time to do that.  If Brenda wants me to join her for a run to the store, I can do that.  And, if I want to take Brenda out for lunch or dinner, I can fit that into my schedule, too.
On the negative side, here's a big LOL I joke about often...  What I'm getting at is that I can't call in sick for a week, nor is anyone else going to do my work if I'm not able to.  Yet, if that's the worst of it, I'll take it
As a wrap up, I'd love to hear others' opinion on that all-elusive experience known as happiness.  Have I nailed it, or have I missed something?  Again, I'm saying that my version of happiness includes a relatively positive attitude, having reasonably good physical health, spending a bulk of our time doing things we really enjoy, and maybe having a job that permits relatively flexible hours.

Personally, I believe money is important to our happiness, and an adequate amount should mean that we worry less than those who toss and turn due to overwhelming bills.  Of course, "enough money" seems relative to me, because I know some with a lot of money who still worry about paying their bills, and I know as many with far less money having their financial life well under control.


As a PS to all the above, I'm getting the feeling that this might just be the first post in a new blog site.  Ya, over recent days, Brenda and I have become involved in something new and exciting, and something we might want to tell our friends about.  To me, that new venture has a lot to do with nurturing a more positive mindset, in improving our physical health, in having the chance to do something very enjoyable for a living, in having flexible work hours, and in improving our financial status to about any degree we wish.