Paul Dolan,* a professor at the London School of Economics and the happiness scholar interviewed for the essay says, “happy people pay attention to the everyday experiences that give them pleasure and purpose, then organize their lives so that they are doing more of those things.”
consider me guilty as charged. i practice yoga like it’s my job—every day, including during grad school and while working full-time. it isn’t easy and i don’t always feel like going, but i do, because the net positive—feeling amazing—outweighs any invented excuses.
Dolan prescribes a two-step solution:
- perform a “happiness audit,” where you choose one day weekly or monthly to observe yourself. pay attention to your activities and your feelings about them.
once you’ve done that,
- make it as easy as possible to routinely do the things you like. for example, set up a recurring date with friends so you don’t need to plan every outing.
Dolan notes, "there’s this belief that anything worth having has to be effortful, but really the opposite is true.”
i tend to agree, but i think a lot of people get paralyzed if they perform the audit and realize aspects of their lives aren’t generating the joy they once did.
that’s a scary acknowledgment. what’s going to fit us now? when will it arrive? where will it come from? it’ll probably feel better to stay with what’s familiar, if unpleasant, but that’s a short-term “solution.”
you need to get honest. this is your quality of life we’re talking about. in the end, all life improvements are based on awareness and willingness to change. most people are inclined to avoid both.
this article reminded me of the great quote by Seneca, a Roman philosopher from the mid-first century A.D.:
“it is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
isn’t that simultaneously humbling and inspiring?
* the Paul Dolan link is to an article in The Guardian about what makes him happy.