I remember reading somewhere that the words we speak create the thoughts we think and together they determine both the path and the speed with which we journey toward happiness. This occurs to me in some fashion whenever I speak with someone about the things that they think will make them happy; winning a huge lottery, a night out and dinner at a special restaurant, a new car, a bigger house and on and on.
The eternal question is what is happiness? And what makes us happy? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as a state of well-being and contentment and a pleasurable or satisfying experience. What exactly is that, how do we get it and how might we sustain it all the time? The idea of happiness has been debated for centuries and I’m pretty sure that we’re no closer to actually answering this question today than we were some 2000 years ago when Aristotle theorized, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Has he ever been proved wrong?
Recently science has become involved in the search for the answer. From a scientific standpoint Sonja Lyubomirsky, the UC Riverside professor in her book “The How of Happiness,” writes that research on twins has found that our genes may determine an innate baseline for how happy we’ll be during our lives. Lyubormirsky and her colleagues, Ken Sheldon of the University of Missouri and David Schkade of UC San Diego, hypothesize that this genetic set point accounts for about 50 percent of our happiness (really?). Lyubormirsky goes on to argue that other studies indicate that another 10 percent of our happiness is likely based on our circumstances. That leaves 40 percent that may be under our own control, determined by what we think, decide and do each day. I’ll let you decide for yourself what you think about the science.
When I consider my own life it’s obvious to me that my happiness is determined 100 percent by what I think, decide and do about things each day. I used to be convinced that something—a job, some material possession, a particular event would ultimately make me permanently happy. Nothing ever has and I’m quite sure at this point in my life no event or material thing ever will. To me happiness is subjective and the stimuli needed to be happy are also subjective. In other words, as Aristotle speculated it’s up to me to find out what makes me happy and keeps me happy.
You may not agree, but I think humans (for sure many people I know) are awful at deciding what will and will not make them happy. I also think that the more obsessively anyone pursues and looks for happiness in circumstances and materials things the more likely their efforts to be happy every day will fail. There is real happiness I’m sure. It just doesn’t look the way most people have been conditioned to think these days, which is precisely what the greatest thinkers throughout the ages have been have been telling us.
So what is it that the best of the best philosophers, scholars and spiritual greats of all times have been telling us delivers true and lasting happiness? It’s that our happiness is indeed determined by the words we speak and it is actually created by thoughts we think and together they do determine both the path and the speed with which we journey toward happiness.
William “Bud” Hart is a certified “Mindset” Coach, Accountability Partner and Business Consultant. Visit Hart Group, www.hartgroupma.com for more on coaching.