Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Designing Your Own Happiness Principles

The idea for this post began with a recent post on Gretchen Rubin's outstanding blog, Positively Positive. Gretchen provided 6 Tips For Designing Your Own Happiness Commandments. She then followed her own advice by producing and sharing her personal happiness commandments. Finally, she offered space for readers to respond. 

I thought this response from Jill was particularly noteworthy:   

Guidelines for Happiness and Success
1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind ( Small things annoy all when the focus is not on the big picture. Don't sweat the small stuff, almost everything is small stuff).
2. Talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
3. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them (because there is).
4. Look at the bright side of everything. (Everything has a bright side you only have to look for it).
5.Think only of the best, work only for the best, and always expect the best
6. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
7. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements of the future.
8. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
9. Be too big for worry and too noble for anger.

Jill admitted these were not original and maybe you have seen them before. With due respect to the true unknown author, I made the following comment on Jill's response:

"Jill, these are outstanding. Thanks for sharing them. I like that they go beyond simple aphorisms like "Do good and Avoid evil" and get into some specifics. "Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet" is clear and actionable." 

Nicely done!

This brings me to my thoughts on designing your own happiness principles.

First, I recoiled at Gretchen's term, "commandments." I am not a commitment-phobe. In fact, quite the opposite! For me, the issue is the tension between making promises I cannot keep, and pushing myself hard enough to grow. Words like commandments, laws, promises, covenants, and vows are not to be taken lightly. I prefer principles, values, guideposts, and goals. These latter terms are aspirational, not legal. Falling short of a stretch goal can be forgiven. Break a vow and that's a different story.

Another gripe I have is the practice of enumerating items in a list when no priority or sequence is required. When you enumerated items in a list, the clear implication is that the first is either most important than, or a logical precedent of, the second. If no such logic is to be inferred--if, in fact, all the principles are weighted approximately equally, then use bullets.

So, have a look at Gretchen's site and this post in particular. Then, have a look at what I call my Guiding Lights (below). Finally, feel free to share your own happiness principles in the comments section.


Dr. Dave’s Ten Guiding Lights

  • Trust. But verify. Ask: Is it true? Is it really, true, or just part of my story? and What does it mean?
  • Find and follow your North Star. Choose carefully!
  • Set the example. Strive to be a North Star for others.
  • Life is short: Live it deep, wide, and applied. Have deep understanding in many areas and use that power for positive social change.
  • Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
  • Honesty is the best policy: Integrity begins with being true to yourself and living honorably.
  • Like a good Boy Scout, always leave the campground better than you found it. We are all connected.
  • Remember where you came from (“Them bastards up at Platoon Headquarters…”).
  • Relax and have FUN! Put your knees in the breeze.
  • (((Do the right thing) right) right now).

H/T: MGBW, with a shout out to MCRWS and MFL