Monday, December 6, 2010

The Happiness Interview

Gretchen Rubin’s book and blog are among my favorites. She interviews well-known authors, bloggers, or anyone that has anything to do with happiness or the search for it. Below are 9 questions she asks everyone. Their answers can be so illuminating and thought-provoking that I decided to answer them myself as if she was interviewing me! LOL I figured it would be a very good exercise in self-reflection and pinpointing my life philosophies. Here’s hoping these answers will be of help to you too!

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Keeping busy and learning. Whether it’s volunteering, exploring new hobbies, catching up with friends, sleeping in, reading a book, or trying a new restaurant, I want to live life to the fullest. It may not be a grand or exciting life, but it is a happy, fulfilling, and productive one!

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Now that I’m out of college and have been in the real world for some time, I’ve realized that happiness means re-defining who I am, my goals, my values, my definition of happiness every few years. It’s like Madonna, now I know why she re-invents her music and who she is. From one stage ending, comes a new beginning.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Boredom is the devil’s playground. When I can’t think of what to do, which is rare, I ruminate on the past and too many if’s, and’s, but’s.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Spend out.”) Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
During the worst of times, my mantra is: Whatever you do, don’t make it worse.

On a bad day, it’s: Always take the high road or you’ll regret it later because it’s a small world. Let it go.

For every day, it’s: Stay positive and Carpe Diem!

My favorite quote is by Helen Keller. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (Mine is reading children’s books.)
I read. I read to laugh, to be moved, to feel validated, for knowledge.

I also write the highlights from each week and Monday nights are set aside for personal growth reading, journaling, reflection, or sleeping early.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
Many complain, but won’t cultivate the discipline to change their circumstances or are too afraid.

It was very eye opening for me to learn that 1) most people prefer the certainty of misery than the misery of uncertainty and 2) procrastination is a form of anxiety management.

How you deal with your anxiety/stress and how you solve problems are key indicators..

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I’ve always felt the same level of happiness. During any periods of feeling lost or confused, I still maintained my sanity by sleeping, eating, and living well. Any time I’m unhappy, I focus on why I’m feeling the way I am and how to fix it. Avoidance and denial are never the answer.

I also recently discovered Brene Brown and I love her outlook and quote. “An ordinary life is not meaningless.” I’m paraphrasing, but it’s our downfall as a nation that our belief is we must be extraordinary to matter - the smartest, richest, prettiest, most successful, sexiest, funniest, etc. This is why, in all of American history, we have never been more obese, in debt, depressed, addicted, and feeling overextended/busy than we are today.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Yes. Reading is my way of seeking new concepts or life lessons to ponder by reading memoirs. I also love reading personal growth books whether they are about business, my industry, successful companies/people, failures, or life’s tribulations. More than anything it’s also the discipline and patience to carry out actions and make decisions based on what I want out of life long-term. By taking time to think, reflect, and NOT live life on auto pilot you learn who you are, why you feel and think the way you do, what you want, what’s important to you, and how to carry out a meaningful day, week, and life. Regarding happiness, knowing who you are solves 90% of your problems. The rest is tactic and strategy to go after what you want.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
Not really. I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Money and toys can only buy you so much happiness. At the end of the day, everyone wants to do meaningful work and to feel special.

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