Friday, December 28, 2012

Resolve to be happier

What should your New Year's Resolution be? I'm glad you asked. I think a good go to resolution is to simply resolve to be happier. Simply looking to have a better outlook on life and especially if followed up with happiness-increasing actions, can improve your life significantly.

The Happiness Project might offer some clues that would help including these tips on how NOT to be happy.

Here is my contribution. It is a bit of a happiness hack. I think one should view developments not fully within one's control but definitely affecting one's life as first offers where one has a right of negotiation. Rather than seeing these developments as ultimatums or demands or requirements that are "happening to me", I like to think of them as changes in my opportunity set. Some examples:

  1. My child's soccer team's new practice schedule conflicts with other activities, or my child's soccer  team is moving up into a more competitive league that I am not necessarily comfortable with. 
  2. At work my department is moving floors where I am probably getting a downgrade if offices, or my employer is changing the schedule of benefits reducing those most advantageous to me, or my employer is asking me to go into a conference room to discuss how I spend my day with a consultant.
  3. Near my quiet home a new commercial development is announced with the possibility of more traffic, more noise, and perhaps more crime.
Aside from the nearly always applicable assuaging line that it is probably just not that bad, I look at these types of developments as challenges where I have options. Assuming even that I cannot fight directly to reverse or direct the changes, I consider my options: 
  1. This may be the end of soccer for my child (perhaps she wasn't destined for World Cup) and perhaps another sport or other activity would be a close substitute (it may even be an improvement), or perhaps there is another soccer league.
  2. Is this the impetus I need to consider a change in jobs, or perhaps this offers the incentive I need to work harder for a promotion or other recognition.
  3. What do I truly value in a home and can I find a better match to my desires? How might the new commercial property actually benefit me?
This is not about "bright-siding" every situation. It is about being realistic and open minded. Life is about constant change of varying degrees and at sudden impacts. Those who adapt to that immutable quality of the universe are better equipped for success and happiness.

Update: new research indicates that being happy correlates and perhaps contributes to success. http://www.aeaweb.org/aea/2013conference/program/retrieve.php?pdfid=29