Friday, February 19, 2010

Choose Happiness

I read a book last fall called The Passion Test (by Janet and Chris Atwood). I wasn’t keen on reading it because, in some ways, it is like so many other follow-your-bliss-live-your-best-life-the-power-is-within-you books that tell you how to discover your personal mission and live happily ever after. Since I pretty much live my where-I-want-to-be-in-1/3/5/10-years life, I thought the book would have little to offer me. But I read it anyway on the advice of a friend, and I was glad I did.

The book leads you through a series of steps to identify your current top five passions. “Current” because you are encouraged to retake the test from time to time as your life and interests change.

The key is, in making decisions, to choose the option most in alignment with your identified passions. And to trust the process.

Here is what I came up with for myself. When my life is ideal, I am:
1. living a fully awakened life
2. spending lots of time with people who love me
3. speaking many languages
4. enjoying robust health
5. helping other people have better lives.

I put this list in a couple of places where I would see it often. And I began to make choices based not so much on what I thought I should do, but on what was in alignment with my passions. For example, I signed up for Thai language lessons. Why not? I agreed to take a leadership role in an organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities. More meetings. (Shoot me in the face, as my daughter would say.) But I agreed because it would help people have better lives. It would help my two autistic sons have better lives. I got some friends together to learn to play mahjong. I started this blog. From the first day, I felt a shift. I said yes to the what and trusted that the how would follow. And I was happier.

The Dalai Lama says that happiness is a valid goal, and the "conscious decision to seek happiness in a systematic manner can profoundly change the rest of our lives." If you think that the pursuit of happiness is selfish, then consider the phenomenon of emotional contagion that Gretchen Rubin describes in her book The Happiness Project. Have you ever been unable to refrain from laughing when watching a baby laugh hysterically over something that you would never think of as funny? Is that not infectious laughter? Conversely, have you ever been feeling pretty good when someone walked in scowling and your mood immediately darkened? And I'm sure you've all heard, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." So remember that making choices in alignment with your passions will spread germs of happiness wherever you go.

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