In the pursuit of happiness…


I’ve been doing quite a deal of reading this past couple of weeks, as I have worked my way through the lows associated with a potential relationship loss.  I’ve come across a lot of great resources out there in virtual world and especially some encouraging blogs and websites.  One that I really have enjoyed reading (and have subscribed to receive the daily highlight) is called The Happiness Project, a work in progress for Gretchen Rubin.  I’ve put the links in for whoever happens to pop in to read my posting, but here’s a brief description of what the idea behind the project is:

…a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier.

So every day I receive an email with a feel good story about what someone has done to make either themselves or someone else happy.  For me, this really strikes a chord with who I am.  I (like millions of others I believe) have a FaceBook profile and tonight took one of the many surveys that people create.  One was to show me, based on some strategically worded questions, what was my best trait.  There’s no scientific method in these tests I don’t believe, however it was interesting that it decided that my best trait was my generosity.  That’s definitely me.  It also described me to a t:

You have a very giving nature, and you think of others before yourself. You enjoy giving gifts even more than receiving them. You are a helping hand to anyone in need, and you not only give what resources you have, but you give your heart and your time. You are always looking out for the needs of others are very aware of others’ problems, situations, and insecurities. You like to fill in the gaps with your love and kindness. That is what makes you such a great friend and companion.

But there’s also a problem with being someone like that, and I bet anyone who happens to read this and is in the same class as me, knows exactly what I am going to say.  People like me tend to get used and abused — our generosity and willingness to put others’ needs ahead of our own often comes at a price, that is, people take advantage of our good intentions.  For me, I am most happy when I am helping someone, which is probably why I have always been involved in some form of volunteer pursuit.  It’s a fine line — doing acts of kindness to make someone happy.

Gretchen makes a point at one stage that even if people do random acts of kindness, quite often their good faith deeds will be received with suspicion.  Doing something thoughtful for someone else is a surefire way to make yourself happier, but it may not result in a similar feeling for the other person.

So, something I need to learn and work on is determining if I am going out of my way too much for others — and that can be family or friends.  I need to take care of my own interests at the same time.  That’ll be the difficult piece for me.

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