Happiness Gets a Bad Rap….

The Globe and Mail published a whole section this weekend devoted to the pursuit of happiness. Leah Mclaren, self-described pessimist, wrote the cover story which investigated the downside of up. Leave it to the pessimists to find a downside to up!@!

 (Photo courtesy of Flickr. See here for more)

Albeit there was a bit of balance – but the article ultimately gave happiness a pretty bad rap.

That made me unhappy.

Here’s the thing (or two or three…I need to rant a bit here).

I think her ‘investigation’ into the world of positive psychology and the concept of ‘happy’ resulted in an oversimplified and candy-coated version of what it means to pursue happiness.

She painted Martin Seligman (the founder and key contributor of/to positive psychology) and others in this field as over-excited self-help junkies……and lumped the concept of happiness into some ideal. She (and many whom she quoted) made it sound as if…..happiness equates with constant cheerfulness; constant wonderful moods…and  inferred that to be happy means putting your head in the sand, ignoring and denying the hurts, pains and perils in this world and in our lives (as in “don’t worry – just be happy”).

ARgggghh. Yuck. Blech. Puke. Puleeeeze!!!!

That version of happiness sounds a little Stepford don’t you think? PollyAnna?

Come on Leah! Dig a little deeper here.

Happiness (and positive psychology) really deserves a little more respect.

Pursuing happiness in one’s life is not about trying to be in constant joy per se. It’s more about creating meaning in our life experiences. The challenge so many of us face is that we miss out on so much because we’re constantly in angst. We’re running, worrying, stressing our days away. The positive psychology movement (in which coaching plays a big part), helps us to navigate our lives better and find/create more meaning and joy where it makes sense. It’s not about superficial joy all the time…it’s about gratification, meaning and actualization. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to be happy. And it’s a coachable. And worth underscoring: It’s not about ALWAYS being happy. It’s about the right BALANCE and PERSPECTIVE.

Traditional pyschology was always about ‘fixing what’s wrong’. Healing those that needed healing. What about the rest of us? What about those who can give more of themselves and experience more in their life…but might need a little help in figuring out how to do that??

Worth repeating: Positive psychology (and coaching) is more about ACTUALIZING than healing. Pursuing happiness has much much more substance than simply pursuing a permanent good mood.  

A good life isn’t about an easy life with no bumps or challenges. But it is about a life well lived. Our lives happen. We can either experience them with a whole lot of stress, angst….or we can find ways to navigate our challenges, stress and bumps in the road……and create life experience with a little (or a lot)  more joy and fulfillment and ease (as in less ‘static’).

Sounds narcisstic? Think again. Happiness (in its more meaningful definition) often leads to more contribution. That’s right. When one feels they are living their ‘good life’ ….i.e. at peace, actualized, satisified with who they are and their life experience – they can give more back.

One of my coaching clients who had come a long way in finding her ‘good life’ said to me upon completion of our work together: “I have so much more to give of myself now….I am happier. Before, I had so little to give.” She found her version of meaning and happiness and immediately translated that into giving back to her family, friends and community. Her less-than-happy (actualized, fullfilled) self had much less to give. Now she had more. And she gave more back.

Hmmm. Perhaps there’s a philanthropic edge to happiness to be explored (Leah? a future article perhaps?).

Happiness takes work and is dynamic: I also think happiness is not a static, forever kind of condition that one receives…..i.e. I’m happy. Fait accomplit. Happiness is dynamic, fluid and takes work. You create your happiness (your state of mind)…..moment by moment.

It’s not about self analysis till paralyis. It’ s about living reflectively and taking responsibility for your thinking, actions…….and life experience.

Being happy is not about being self-centred and superficial. You can and should feel pain when life’s moments call for it. But being a happy, actualized, fulfilfled person — allows you to feel more compassion, empathy for others – and for yourself.

I have to share that I experience my own load of angst, worry, stress, etc. But I also practice heavily what I preach and am the better for it. Moment by moment, day by day….my life journey is about actualizing, experiencing more joy, navigating tough spots more gracefully….and being there for others because I can and want to.

Anyways….I’ve probably ranted enough for now. If you’ve come this far in this post, would LOVE to hear your thoughts, questions, ideas….

I must confess….I was pissed off reading that article but now I feel good, self expressed and happier that I wrote this post.

To a TGIM worklife….to being real….and to being happy!


5 Responses to “Happiness Gets a Bad Rap….”

  1. Marilynn Jorgensen Says:

    A very refreshing article! Thanks for the clear insights…a real response to a very complex and important part of our lives. Happily submitted by Marilynn Jorgensen

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Marilynn – thanks so much for this. Appreciate your comment and you stopping by…come visit again!

  3. Bad Globe Article Says:

    hey, your Blog was triggered by a Google alert for PP. The “author” of that “article” is not renowned for her intelligence, or insight. I will try to contain my true feelings, but I was ticked off when I read that “article”. (she is Nepotism Inc). But below is what I commented on in the Globe and Mail. Of course, your comment is much better!!
    Leah McClaren states that Positive Psychology is facile and inward-looking?

    That is a joke, right? Coming from her? She clearly has not done any research into what is going on.

    Dr. Seligman has been working on Positive Psychology for many years, read his book Authentic Happiness. There is nothing facile about it at all. Completely false accusation just pulled out of thin air.

    Why not go back to Aristotle and Bertrand Russell’s book the Conquest of Happiness? Russell clearly explains the entire field.

    Why do newspaper articles have to be written in such a dumbed-down simpleminded fashion? Why not get some intelligent experts to write something with some depth and acuity to it?

    As far as “inward looking” the only way a person can ever have any type of happiness, is if they choose meaning in their life.

    Please, get some proper Thinkers and Philosophers and professionals to write some decent articles. Otherwise the newspaper is simply lining for the kitty litter.

  4. kevinkeohane Says:

    Hi there. Some strange synchronicity here … I just now spotted your comment on my blog as it was on the “about” page — so nice to meet you, 6 months later! And I’m having a “what the hell am I doing with my life day” so this post seemed quite timely and interesting. -kpk

  5. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Hey Kevin – so glad to hear from you! I love your stuff….think you are very kewl and wise. Need a protege in Canada?:)

    I just wrote a comment on your article (The end of internal communications). I sooooo agree with you on that front. Down with the silos….need to work better together and expand what we (communicators) can bring to the table. Otherwise there will be no seat for us at that coveted (board) table.

    Ciao for now,

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