The Pursuit of a Happy New Year

January 3, 2015

Thomas Jefferson, through The United States Declaration of Independence, reminded us that one of our “unalienable rights” is the pursuit of Happiness.

With all the heartfelt wishes for a ‘Happy’ New Year going around, it got me thinking: What is Happiness and how do you know whether your pursuit will get you there? Is the “pursuit of happiness” another active and endless, noble commitment akin to the decree, “Justice, justice thou shalt pursue”(Deuteronomy 16:20)? Are Happiness and Justice attainable or wholly inspirational?
Last night, my 22-year-old son brought out some old videotapes for us to watch; one was of my wedding celebration from 32 years ago. As I stood with my husband I was asked by the videographer, “What do you want to say today?” I smiled and burst forth, “I am so happy! I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do, or anywhere else I’d rather be than here! I’m so happy!” That marriage ended in divorce thirteen years later. Was I happy? Or, was I ‘in pursuit’ of a version of happiness that turned out to be false for me?
Many articles are written about the pursuit of happiness with titles such as “How to be Happy: 7 Steps to Becoming Happier” and “12 Secrets of Being Happy,” or “The Habits of Supremely Happy People.” Somehow, all the secrets and tricks are hard to remember when you are miserable at work, or when life’s challenges drain or hurt too much to remember the list of How-Tos. Besides, one person’s pursuit often doesn’t work for others.

So, I was ‘happy’ (sic) to find a short article that had a refreshing approach entitled “7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People” by Tamara Star http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-star/7-habit-of-chronically-unhappy-people_b_6174000.html
I like this approach because these seven qualities can serve as caution lights to help you slow down enough to ask: Is there another way I can think about this moment that might lead to a different feeling, conclusion, or action? Could pausing help me avoid an oncoming collision? Slowing down the emotional momentum is particularly helpful when we are at work, where it is important not to be derailed by feelings or impulses that can undermine motivation, performance, relationships, and morale.
I am not “Chronically Unhappy” but I am a realist; I do not celebrate every moment of every day with a big and deep smile, full of joy, and boundless wonder about life and its miracles. Still, being optimistic and confident I believe that there are successes and delights yet to be enjoyed. Because I recognize a few of the 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People, I’m going to try to notice when any of these seven caution lights blink along my road in my pursuit of my right to a Happy New Year.

The seven qualities are:
1. Your default belief is that life is hard,
2. You believe most people can’t be trusted,
3. You concentrate on what’s wrong in this world versus what’s right,
4. You compare yourself to others and harbor jealousy,
5. You strive to control your life,
6. You consider your future with worry and fear,
7. You fill your conversations with gossip and complaints.

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