The post in which I write about happiness: A life sentence with mortal punctuation, part 10

I’d wanted to wrap things up this week, but the happiness post seems to have a mind of its own 😉  So next week will be my finale for this series in which I will talk about how my life and experiences have influenced my writing.

For now, though:

What I’ve learned about happiness

supreme happiness

supreme happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, it’s an amorphous thing.  It’s hard to pin down.  Sometimes you only realize in retrospect that you were happy because of its sudden absence.  Sometimes you know that you’re happy because your friends and family clearly aren’t and by comparison, you’re feeling pretty good.  Sometimes, you just need to find a still moment and let the happy come.

Here is the definition (linked for your convenience):

hap·pi·ness [hap-ee-nis] noun

1. the quality or state of being happy.

2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

Origin: 1520–30; happy + -ness

Related forms o·ver·hap·pi·ness, noun

1, 2. pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction. Happiness, bliss, contentment, felicity imply an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction. Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good: the happiness of visiting one’s family. Bliss is unalloyed happiness or supreme delight: the bliss of perfect companionship. Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires, even though every wish may not have been gratified: contentment in one’s surroundings. Felicity is a formal word for happiness of an especially fortunate or intense kind: to wish a young couple felicity in life.

You can look at as many definitions as you like, but you won’t find one that actually conveys what happiness feels like.  It’s all just wordage, and one time when post-modernist or semiotic analysis might tell you more about what happiness actually means than reading a bunch of words on a page or website.

Last year, I finally got around to reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.  It came highly recommended by a colleague from work and a few online friends, but I have to say that I was less than impressed.

I appreciate Gretchin’s candid style and some of the insights she gains in her year-long happiness project (which has subsequently been renewed in ensuing years), but I couldn’t relate to a lot of what she wrote about.

She was honest about it, indicating that her life was pretty darned happy already.  She didn’t have many crises or tragedies to make her personal search for happiness compelling, and she admitted that this might make her happiness project ring hollow to some readers.

I didn’t really find this, but what I saw was someone who really didn’t have to dig deep to find the happy in her life.

I did agree to a certain extent with her philosophy of “act the way you want to feel,” but I found it to be disingenuous.  I’m not a gloomy Gus, generally speaking.  I smile and say hello.  I chat with people, but I don’t go out of my way to pretend that things are peachy when they are so definitely not (for me).

Still, I have to admit: I’m happy most of the time.  The key is to recognize your happiness and observe it.  Happiness is kind of a sacred moment that has to be respected and cherished.


Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retrospective happiness, A.K.A. Big Yellow Taxi happiness
The first kind of happiness I noticed in my life was retrospective happiness.  This is the kind of happiness you realize after the fact because you’ve suddenly been faced with a sad or difficult situation and the change in your mood helps you to understand that you were, in fact, happy, before the situation arose.
It’s important to take some time, even a few moments, to think about that happiness.  What did it feel like?  How relatively easy was it to be productive, proactive, and socialized with friends and family?  This way, you can more readily recognize happiness the next time it enters your life.
Happiness is like a child.  It likes attention and will hang around if you show it that you appreciate it 🙂
I characterize this happiness with the lyrics to the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?”

Comparative happiness, relatively speaking
I often noticed when I was happy because Phil was not.  Often it seemed that when he was having a rough go of it at work, things were going swimmingly for me.  I like it when things turn out well and this makes me happy.  Currently, we’re both having a bit of a bad time at work, but interestingly, we’re both fairly happy at home.
Again, notice how this kind of happiness feels.  Is it based on accomplishment, recognition, or something else?  Is there a way that you can foster these happy-making elements in your life?  Happiness is an opportunity.  Learn how to invite it to come knocking 🙂

Happiness-in-the-moment, A.K.A. Zen happiness
Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to realize, regardless how you think you feel, or should feel, that you are happy.  It’s a weird phenomenon, owing in no small part to the inexact and un-pin-down-able nature of happiness.
Also, in the Buddhist tradition, there’s this idea of non-attachment.  In order to experience something, you have to stop wanting it, let it go, become disinterested in it.  Happiness can sneak up on you at the strangest times.  If you’ve been careful in your observation of your happiness in the past, you might be “surprised by joy” at an unexpected moment.
I also think of this as serendipity, or, as I like to say, surrend-ipity.  It’s only when you surrender to the moment that you can find your greatest happiness.

So that’s it.  Three ways to find happiness.


happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have other techniques you use to find the happy moments in your life?  I’d love to hear about them.

Tonight’s TV line-up: Once Upon a Time, Game of Thrones, and Vikings.

Have a great evening!

The best of Writerly Goodness 2012

Well, since I only started blogging (in this incarnation) in March, it’s not been a year yet online, but I’ll give you an idea about what I think has been the best of 2012.

Best movie:  Definitely Cloud Atlas.  I don’t know why, but this movie really had me thinking and feeling.  I know that not everyone shares my inclinations, but Cloud Atlas blew me away.

Kim and I will be going to see The Hobbit tomorrow, but I honestly don’t anticipate that it will impress me as much.  I’ll enjoy the heck out of it, but Cloud Atlas affected me …

Best writing book: (A.K.A writing book porn): The Right to Write.  I’ve had the book on my shelf for years and it wasn’t until the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group chose it that I actually cracked the cover.  I love Julia Cameron’s philosophy even if I am still struggling with morning pages.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.

Runners up include Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering and Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver.

Best fiction: The Hunger Games.  When my Mom read it before I did, I figured I better get around to the dear little thing.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Mind you, Larry Brooks’s 11 part analysis of the book was fantastic too, and made me think that I’d have some substantial writerly lessons to learn from it.

Riding Suzanne Collins’s heals are Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, both of which I’m still reading, so I’m not sure, strictly speaking, that they count (!)

Best non-writing, non-fiction book: The Happiness Project, by Gretchin Rubin.  Again, still reading it, but it does speak to the control freak in me 🙂

Best writerly experience: The New York comes to Niagara pitch conference.  Fraught, yes.  Learning experience, double-yes.

Best local arts event: Hands down has to be the Launch of Kim Fahner’s The Narcoleptic Madonna, though Jon Bulter’s The LaCloche spirit: The equivalent light exhibit and Scott Overton’s launch of his novel Dead Air are close seconds.  Nor can I forget the 100 thousand poets for change event in North Bay.  Poetic road trips are the bestest.

Best posts
These have been selected due to the number of all-time views.

  1. Do you dress for success?
  2. The cadre … or should that be cabal?
  3. Feminist lunacy from Battle Chant
  4. Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?
  5. Eight metaphors for persistence and why you’ll want to read this anyway – my very first post!  Awww … you guys 🙂
  6. Character sketches, part 2: Eoghan
  7. Character sketches, part 3: Dairragh
  8. Rethinking my online strategy
  9. Why spoilers are good for writers
  10. An Interview with Kim Fahner

hAPPY NEW YEAR (Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi)

I’ll wait until New Years Day to post on resolutions.  So have a happy New Year all, and thanks a bunch for all of your support!

Virtual hugs!

Writerly Goodness.

Four learning-related resources that have come my way recently

After two weeks out of town, I have a couple days off.  So this week the learning mutt is sharing some of the interesting stuff she found on the interwebz 🙂

The first two come from my friend BrainySmurf courtesy of her blog Connecting the Dots.

Brainy’s a MOOCer, that is, she participates in massively open online courses.  Through her most recent set of them (I think 4 at last count), she’s come across Susan Cain and her site: The Power of Introverts.

Now I’m essentially an introvert, though I work in an industry that has me talking to people all the time, facilitating courses, and the like.  I dislike “putting myself out there” and “being on.”  Really, what I want to do is work independently with words (just let me design courses and give me the time to finish them properly!), and of course, write.  My true preference would be to write all the time, holed up in my wee garret, but I know that after the writing comes the promotion and I have to be super “on” for that.

Susan Cain - Quiet - The Power Of Introverts

Susan Cain – Quiet – The Power Of Introverts (Photo credit: k-ideas)

What this means is that I have to find my power as an introvert and learn how to use my innate and learned talents and skills to their best effect in an extroverted world.

Last week I mentioned Susan’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s definitely on my reading list.

Last year, Brainy also mentioned Gretchen Rubin and her book The Happiness Project.  This week, I saw Gretchen on Canada AM promoting her new book Happier at Home.  Gretchen also came up during the platform-building course I’m participating in with Dan Blank of We Grow Media.  She was cited as an excellent example of platform-building, self-promotion, and book marketing.

PBS @ SXSW 2010 / Gretchen Rubin

PBS @ SXSW 2010 / Gretchen Rubin (Photo credit: PBS PressRoom)

When I first saw Brainy’s post on Gretchen, I wasn’t caught.  I was happy and didn’t really need any advice in the area, or so I thought.  Now I’m reconsidering my position.

A recent crisis in self-confidence has forced me to face the fact that I’m not currently happy.  Stress, mostly self-imposed, has me out on a limb and trying to look at myself in a mirror at the same time.  Tricky business that.

I’m thinking that I have to take another look at The Happiness Project.

Clark Quinn (the Quinnovator) noted on his blog learnets this week that Learning Design isn’t for the Wimpy.

ID isn’t easy.  We’ve been given some content, and it’s not just about being good little IDs and taking what they give us and designing instruction from it.  We could do it, but it would be a disaster (in this case, that’s what we’re working from, a too-rote too-knowledge-dump course.  And it’s too often what I’ve seen done, and it’s wrong.

Instructional design, or ID is what I aspire to do.  I write courses now, but it’s not really ID in the sense that Clark’s talking about.  There’s no consultation, there’s no conversation, there’s no back-and forth.  So far, I’ve only been writing courses on topic in which I’m considered the expert.  I can only write what I think a learner would need to know.  Being self-taught in most of these topics means that I’m writing courses for learners like myself, but I know that not everyone has the predisposition to learning that I do.

I try to work in what I think other learners will like and relate to, but it’s all through my own filters, and ultimately, that’s not good design.

Harold Jarche

Harold Jarche (Photo credit: Harold Jarche)

Which brings me to my next find: Harold Jarche.  He’s the champion of personal knowledge management, or PKM, and his latest post on Life in Perpetual Beta talks about how PKM can work to foster innovation within an organization.

In an organization where everyone is practising PKM, the chances for more connections increases. Innovation is not so much about having ideas, as making more and better connections.

PKM is something else I aspire to (hence the learning mutt), but it’s really only possible in my workplace at the advisory level or higher, and not many of us have hopped on the bandwagon so the sharing community isn’t huge.

Right now, it’s a problem without a resolution.  I have the solution, but not the internal platform to promote it.  I don’t have a lot of authority and all I can really do at this point is lead by example and talk it up every chance I get.

I set up a SharePoint site for the training team last year focused on professional development, but I was the only one using it.  I eventually stopped updating and promoting the site.  A bit of a defeat that, but perhaps someday I’ll be able to get back to it.  Not being a part of the training team anymore kind of throws a monkey wrench into those gears.

That’s it for this week.  Feel free to follow Brainy, Clark, or Harold.  They really are excellent resources in the learning and development field.

Also feel free to share any learning resources that you’ve found recently in the comments below.