As I read a variety of books each month, I’m constantly coming across ideas that I want to share with the LearnDoBecome community, and so today I thought I would just pull one idea from three books I’ve enjoyed recently.
(1) Happiness is a direction.
The book, Build the Life You Want by Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey has given me a LOT of food for thought. The book goes through four pillars of life that tend to help people to feel happy: faith, family, friends, and purposeful work. It also dives into the science of what is happening in our brains and how our choices in the moment make a big difference–regardless of our circumstances.
One interesting idea–right at the beginning–is that “happiness” isn’t a destination. We don’t “get there” and then we have complete happiness forevermore (at least not “on this side of heaven,” as the book says). Instead, happiness is a direction.
I remember one day when I navigated to a friend’s house, I heard the voice on my phone say, “You have arrived.” I remember sighing and thinking, “I wish that happened in other areas of my life. I wish I could just ARRIVE instead of always feeling like I’m chasing something.”
But this perspective on happiness being a direction is actually quite empowering. The book goes on to say, “It’s the best news ever, actually. It means we all can finally stop looking for the lost city that doesn’t exist, once and for all. We can stop wondering what’s wrong with us because we can’t find or keep it. We can also stop believing that our individual problems are the reasons we haven’t achieved happiness.”
In conjunction with that thought, they also share that the definition of happiness changes from Western cultures to Eastern cultures. In Western cultures, happiness is most often defined in terms of excitement and achievement. I see this all the time, and I’ve definitely felt this. We’re happy when we win awards, make money, celebrate a big event, go to a concert, etc.
In Eastern cultures, however, happiness is usually related to calm and contentment. THAT shift is what I’m noticing in my own life. And while there isn’t one right way to define it, the common themes are enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose.
The book goes on to share how we can actually become happier in our faith, families, friendships, and work. It’s a great read. 🙂
(2) Living in “the gain” transforms every experience for our good.
The book, The Gap and the Gain by Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan, shares how when we live in “the gap,” we see all that is lacking in our lives. We see where others let us down, we see how far we are from our goals, and we see ourselves as constantly yearning for achievement.
Even the founding fathers of the United States built the phrase “pursuit of happiness” into the foundational documents. Now, while Arthur Brooks shares that happiness is a direction and not a destination, if we always feel like we’re in the pursuit–but never experiencing happiness in the moment, life feels like a game where we’re constantly chasing the carrot, never reaching it.
The Gap and the Gain suggests that when we focus on the gains each day–what we learned, how we grew, how a situation improved, etc.–we’ll feel a greater sense of peace, contentment, and gratitude.
I’ve been trying this out for a few months, and it’s making a difference!
Here’s a quote from the book that I loved:
“When an experience is framed in the GAP, you haven’t learned from it. You haven’t taken ownership of it. Until you actively learn from a GAP-experience, you’re stuck. You won’t be able to move forward until you frame the experience as a GAIN. Until you choose to be grateful for the experience and better off because it happened. Once you get yourself in the GAIN, you become better. You’re no longer bitter. You’re grateful for every experience. You’re living your life based on your own success measurements–which you yourself have chosen. You embrace “failing” (i.e. learning) because you’re actively converting every experience into learning and growth–GAINS.”
In a video on Dr. Hardy’s channel, he even suggests that we journal our gains each day. Look at what happened–great or not-so-great–and record what good came from those. Now instead of just journaling the happy moments and trying to forget the hard ones, I’m writing things like, “Had a great dinner with the family–and when we had a hard discussion where some of us were in tears, I realized that we had gotten to a really important level of openness. I’m so glad we were able to voice our feelings, and now we can move forward with greater awareness.” This has been game changing.
(3) We need more “fun magnets” in our lives.
The book, The Power of Fun, by Catherine Price was an unexpectedly delightful read. I’ve actually checked several books out from the library about humor and fun, but very few have really resonated with me. This one was quick and easy to read–and encouraged me to actually think about how I have fun—and to deliberately create more space for it.
One idea I loved was to identify our “fun magnets.” These are activities, people, and settings that naturally feel “fun” to us.
Rollerblading, for example, is one of those activities for me. ❤️ Seriously, as soon as I put the skates on and start making my way around the neighborhood, I am in heaven. And I always come home saying to Eric, “Do you know how much I love rollerblading?”
But you obviously don’t need to skate to have a good time. Maybe you always have fun when you’re at a certain park, when you’re around that friend from high school who has the best sense of humor, when you get out your guitar, when you turn on a certain playlist with your favorite dance music, or when you get out your camp chairs and sit around a fire in the backyard.
If we can have a list of our personal fun magnets handy, then we can regularly draw from that list and create moments and memories that make life feel happier.
I hope these ideas can bring a little lift to your day and help you to move in the direction of happiness, see the daily gains in your life, and bring consistent fun as you architect your life!
Build the Life You Want by Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey
The Gap and the Gain by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy
The Power of Fun by Catherine Price
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