Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How happy are you?

I'm not sure why I DVR Oprah since I never watch the show but I had a lot of time on my hands yesterday and I decided to watch the "Uncovering the Secret to Happiness" episode.

One of the guests said something that I really connected with -
"being successful in life is not what really matters. Being significant in life is really the core root of what matters".

This statement reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother Tom. When I quit American Express and was deciding whether or not to take the Conde Nast position - Tom called and wanted to have a little chat. He said that he was a little concerned. He wanted to know what my goal in life was. My goal in life? Hmmm, I never really sat down and thought about my goal in life. So I asked him What's your goal in life? Supposedly his goal is to help prospective Filipino professional basketball players get into the NBA. I thought about it for a couple of minutes and realized that my ultimate goal in life had nothing to do with corporate America. I have no desire to be an SVP or a CEO. My dream job is to raise my (future) children, I can totally see myself baking cookies, finger-painting, taking them to the park and just making an impact on their little lives. I love the idea of a home-cooked meal and the whole family around the table. I'm aware that it's a dying ritual but I will try my hardest to keep it up in my home.

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for self-help guides. I appreciate little quizzes like this because I think some of us need a little push now and then. Questions like these can help jump-start a bigger assessment of one's life and can lead to life-changing steps. Life is an ongoing process and for me, there's always room for a little change ;-)

So here's the quiz. Rate each statement from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and add up your score.

  1. In most ways, my life is close to ideal.
  2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
  3. I am satisfied with my life.
  4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
(taken from oprah.com) If you scored 15 or under, you are dissatisfied with your life. If you scored 31 or higher, you are extremely satisfied with your life. If you scored somewhere in the middle, happiness expert Dr. Robert Holden has some advice on how to live a more satisfying life. Dr. Holden says the key to being happy is overcoming "destination addiction," which he defines as "living in the not-now." "It's always about tomorrow, so you're chasing 'more,' 'next' and 'there,'" he says. "You promise yourself that when you get there, you'll be happy. And I promise you, you won't, because you'll always set another destination to go for." Instead, Dr. Holden says if you are unhappy with your life or looking to improve your score, there are two things you can do. "We have to learn to let go of our past, we have to give up all hopes for a perfect past. Let the past go, it's gone." After that, he says, "Take a vow of kindness. Be kinder to yourself and to others. "It's never too late to be happy," he says.

Quiz courtesy of oprah.com
Image from HBO


Karen said...

i also struggle with what my "goal" is in life...what do i want to do with my life? and before i had kids, it was definitely more career oriented (not that i really wanted it to be). but that was what i thought of first whenever asked that question. now after having 2 kids, it's VERY different. i don't want to say that my kids "define" who i am, but they kind of do. and i'm happy about that. if someone were to ask me about myself, i guess the first thing i would say is "i'm a mom". and what do i want with my life? i want my life to be somethinig my kids can look back on and say "my mom had a good life". doesn't really matter what kind of job/career i have...doesn't matter how much money we have...i think the most important thing i want out of my life is that my kids are genuinely happy and that they know that their own mother was happy too.

AW said...

Happiness. Wow that's a major topic that could have it's own blog!

My idea of happiness has changed over the years and I've come to the conclusion that happiness doesn't exist, at least for me. I hope that's not too cynical because I do believe in joy and love and hope, serenity and acceptance and forgiveness... Things like that which come from the heart and build character. But I've also notice that all of those things we work so hard for are just moments along the way and maybe there is no end or goal. Maybe we're all so much more than that; so much more than happiness.

Jade said...

Great post.
Is there a reason you put a pic from the show Big Love here? The show about the Mormon polygamists in Utah?? :)

Marichelle said...

i just love how they're all sitting and eating together - the fact that they're "non-conventional" in a post that's written by someone who seems to be teetering on the very tippy tippy edge of the traditionalist camp was just an added bonus ;-)

nice catch!

Marichelle said...

hey AW - very interesting. By the way, how do you differentiate between joy and happiness?

Maybe sometimes we don't feel that we can achieve true happiness because our own definition of happiness is so out of our reach? Sometimes I feel like I set up goals that are unrealistic and I'm basically setting myself up for a disaster.

Perhaps we put so much emphasis on what qualifies one to be "happy", as if it's this ultimate high. I know I'm going around in circles (usually what happens when it comes to discussions like these) but since we are ultimately responsible for defining happiness, then does that mean that we're ultimately the cause of our downfall? How does one go about creating their recipe for happiness? Do we learn this as we go and every day we tweak it just a little bit until our life suits our own definition (is this considered selling-out?) or do we adjust our lives/surroundings so that we can achieve the recipe as originally written?

Do we make substitutes or do we travel across town in search for that mysterious ingredient that our local gourmet market doesn't even carry, do we maintain a certain grade of quality and stick to the freshest, organic and top-notch ingredients?... so at the end of the day even when your arms feel like they're about to fall off and you've been downtown, midtown then uptown then to queens -- when you finally have a chance to sit and enjoy your fruits of labor, and as the flavors are bursting in your mouth you get an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and an undeniable feeling of damn that was definitely worth it! Because, you know if you went with the cheaper substitute, you would've spent the whole night thinking (well at least I know I would have) - damn, it probably would've been ten times better if I had ...

Sorry, I couldn't help the cooking metaphor ;-)

Tom said...

So I took this quiz. I rated the last choice with a 7. That's right if I could live my life over, I wouldn't change a thing. I believe you have to experience great pain and unhappiness, otherwise how would you know when you're happy?

I don't have any regrets about my past except taking simple things for granted as I'm starting to realize those means more than anything (hence we don't remember any hyped up souvenirs from our trips, it is the time that was spent that remains in our hearts.

AW said...

"Happiness comes from the outside, joy from within." there is so much out there, if you type "happiness vs. joy" on google...

But personally, i look back at that bike ride i did and I thought it would make me happy: a) I am doing something good. b) I am doing something for others. c) I am being physically challenged and d) I am meeting new and interesting people. But it didn't make me happy. I was disappointed, my body hurt and i was lacking a good night's rest.

On the third day of the ride i finally let go of the idea that i was supposed to feel a certain way. once i let and opened myself up to whatever may come, I felt quite free; I experienced a whole smorgasborg of emotions. It wasn't happiness, it wasn't all joy... it just felt... i don't know... liberating. it just felt okay to be where i was, how i was. and that was in and of itself a very, very wonderful thing.

Great posts Marichelle! Keep 'em coming!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great blog titled "How Happy Are You?".

I am incredibly happy as of recent , actually. Last year, I had a hunch my husband was cheating on me with someone he worked with.
But I never really had 'concrete' proof until recently.

Finally, feel closure and peace and the courage to accept that he did what he did and that I was not imagining the whole thing.

He'd disappear for days at a time last year. And I think what hurt most is that even though his mistress knew of the friction she was causing, she still continued to contact my husband while I was under the same roof with him--as opposed to letting us have cooling time to sort things out. Mind you, he was just as much to blame, but the loss of our connection was further compounded by her.

Thank you, Marichelle, for both an inspiring and freeing blog post.

Keep up the good writing.


Marichelle said...

Hi Amy, I'm happy that you feel that you've finally found closure and peace. Although, as a final step in your recovery - I suggest seeking the truth that lies within before taking the easy way out and assuming the worst and placing the blame on others. But then again, everyone is entitled to some peace - so whatever works for you, I guess. Thanks for reading, you've ( certainly increased my webstats for the night