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HAPPINESS: THE PREQUEL
Most of us were told from an early age that we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up as long as we were “happy.” We were not, however, taught what happiness means exactly, or how to strategically pursue it. So when we end up feeling unhappy from time to time, we are left believing we are to blame, or perhaps worse, that the world is to blame for our failure to meet the expectations piled upon us to be happy.
The nature and meaning of happiness have always been keenly debated. Aristotle noted that while everyone agrees on its name – “happiness” or “flourishing” – most people hold widely divergent views as to what it is. Is happiness a mood, feeling, or sensation: joy, bliss, serenity, felicity, peace? Or is it an activity or by-product of certain activities? Is it a state of restful contentment or of focused and energetic striving? Or is happiness simply the absence of pain, angst, anxiety, guilt, and worry? Some equate happiness with pleasure and deep experience, some with honor and recognition, some with wealth and power, some with physical beauty and virility, and some, paradoxically, with pain and suffering.
Our modern English word happy derives the Old Norse happ – “having random things befall one.” In a literal sense then, each of us is “happy,” since we all have random and chance events befall us. Happiness has come, however, to mean much more in modern culture. It has come to represent the final, all-embracing fulfillment of our aspirations and the flourishing of our lives.
To be sure, superior performance, financial freedom, youthfulness, the absence of oppressive and punishing memories, minimal burdensome feelings of anxiety, disappointment and regret, all contribute to our happiness but they themselves do not solely or directly determine happiness. Rather, how happy we are depends on the degree to which we are able to, in the words of Dale Carnegie, “find ourselves and be ourselves.” In his book, How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job, Carnegie emphasizes that the only way to effectively pursue happiness and realize personal and professional success is to find out who one is and be that person: “to cultivate a mental attitude that will bring us peace and freedom from worry, here is the rule: Let’s not imitate others. Let’s find ourselves and be ourselves.”
But finding and being our genuine selves proves difficult for most of us. The short answer is: hire a coach. A coach can be the catalyst to help you identify and integrate your genuine self. As Eric Hoffer opined, “animals can learn, but it is not by learning that they become dogs, cats, or horses. Only man has to learn to become what he is supposed to be.” If you are ready to explore, experience and excel your true self, coaching calls.