“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to also quotes Mihaly as saying – “People are happiest when completely absorbed in what they’re doing.” Mihaly is a real person, a former professor at the University of Chicago. He’s known for his study of happiness and positive psychology.
There are lots of people who claim to be able to help you be happy. Perhaps what they really do is help you find those things in your life that you can get completely into (be completely absorbed in) that will make you happy. I’ve noticed that many people are most happy when they are completely absorbed in their family life; when being with, and participating in things with, their wives and children take away any cares of the world and they just enjoy the moment and the experiences with family.
People who experience happiness in the interaction with others have gone beyond the happiness that Mihaly described that comes from total absorption in one’s own activities. Their happiness is not self-centered, but rather a shared experience that can far exceed any individual happiness because it draws on the strength of the group’s happiness. Admittedly, it is a somewhat rare and perhaps a fleeting experience; but think of the last time you and your loved ones had a great group experience together and how happy that made you feel. Maybe it was a family pillow fight on a weekend morning, or maybe the fun of a visit to an amusement park or the zoo. There’s nothing that can make you happier than everyone in the family laughing and having fun together while doing something together. Not only are you completely absorbed by the experience, but you also get to share in and draw from the happiness of others in the group experience.
Many people find the happiness that MIhaly was alluding to in their hobbies or sports. It is very easy to become completely absorbed in a hobby or in pursuing a sport. It is something that you choose to do, rather than being something that you have to do and it is something that usually rewards you when you do well or accomplish getting to a new level within the hobby/sport, assuming that you don’t become so competitive in the hobby/sport that istakes on the characteristics of a job for you. It’s also important to maintain control of yourself within the pursuit of a hobby/sport, so that it doesn’t start to take over your life or get way out of hand. Many times on the TV show American Pickers, they show people who have crossed over the line from collectors to hoarders, some of whom eventually recognize that and are trying to pull back from had become an obsession and regain control of their collection hobby. In sports we have probably all encountered the uber-competitive fanatic for whom the sport has become totally a win-lose proposition, rather than a pleasant and enjoyable pastime. There is often more frustration than happiness to be found in that approach to sports.
For many people, happiness may be found in service to others. These good Samaritans are found in all of the volunteer organizations in every community across America. If you talk with them about why they do what they do, why they spend the hours or toil away behind the scenes on jobs with little public recognition for their efforts; they will usually tell you that it makes them feel good; it makes them happy. There’s lots of business advice that says doing the jobs that no one else wants to do is a good way to succeed in business. I think that it is good advice for life in general and your reward in life is a payoff in happiness. Sometimes you are the only one who knows that you did some of those things; but, knowing that you did allows you to make your own happiness from the effort and the success.
What makes you happy? Is it something like a hobby or a sport? Is your happiness found alone or in group settings or both? Do you find happiness in service to others? Do need to be publicly recognized for your efforts in order to be happy about having done it or do you find the happiness from inside? The power to create your own happiness is within you. Find those things in which you can become completely absorbed – a family activity, a hobby, a sport, service to others, whatever – and lose yourself in it. You will experience happiness as a by-product.
Have a great and happy rest of the week.