In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky says,“Happiness comes from a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile“. In other words she recommends a recipe of creating value in your day-to-day life. It sounds simple when you say it, but it is not simple to do it. A simple solution usually cannot be applied to a complicated, or a complex problem.
Therein lies the problem with problems…the solutions given rarely (if ever) match them! So, here’s how to deal with a problem such as “What shall I do with my life to make it more meaningful and to be happier?” (spoiler alert, a plug for coaching is coming)! First step, recognize this is not a simple problem, and therefore a simple solution does not apply. Second, reflect on whether it is a complicated (i.e. when the cause and effect relationship is clear to you and there is a knowable, although multi-step, solution), or complex (when the cause and effect relationship is not clear and the process for discovering and solving it are unknowable without clarification). Third, take action. If it is a complicated problem, begin the multi-step process. If in your case it is complex, learn more about the cause and effect relationship.
This can be done through coaching (yes here’s that plug!), because a coach helps you undergo a strategic series of low-stakes, fun and game-like activities to become clear on how to implement a solution to the ‘more meaningful and happier’ question (see above). Without this necessary data, you are most likely trying to apply a simple solution to a complex problem. If the answer to the question on how to livie a more meaningful life is “do what you are passionate about and do it with gusto!”, everyone would be living a passionate and meaningful life! If this is your solution, you may very well be missing some important pieces of the puzzle.
There are things that cannot be known until they are tried. Without carefully designed experiments and neutral and accurate feedback about how you feel during these experiments, the above formula is useless. You cannot know what to do with gusto if you don’t know what passion feels like? Why not? Because passion is a complex – in that it is different for everyone, and the cause and effect relationship is not clear.
A person may be passionate about rescue dogs, or trees or cooking. But what if you are not? What if you like to solve problems, or feel connected to kind people, or act goofy like a child? These are things you cannot know until you try experiments where you get to do these things. Maybe passion for you is not a huge jolt of Tony Robbins-like energy, but rather like a sweet sense of well-being and rightness in the world. In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the author describes it as being in a stream of energy, performing at a level that challenges you, but does not overwhelm you. This is a fragile and nuanced balancing act, and a much more likely recipe for happiness and meaning in life.
Take a look at our friend Darren Peterson, creator of Circus Chickendog, to give you a real-world example of how this process of – 1) recognize, 2) reflect and 3) act – looks like. He loves rescue dogs, acting goofy like a child and being around kind people. He’s found a way to bundle these things together in a meaningful way to create happiness in his life and for large numbers of children and adults who come to see him and his animals perform. The shows did not develop overnight, but rather grew organically over time with each discovery of important information to what creates meaning and happiness for him as an individual. Before the act came into existence, it was a complex problem with an unknowable solution. Now, how to combine various passions into projects that lead to meanningful happy activity, is a known (and delightful)N solution.
Whatever your various interests are and whatever sensation you are driven to seek, there is a way to understand more about the cause and effect relationship about how you feel when you do these things, and how you could replicate these activities to create a more meaningful and happy life. You probably know someone who is a coach who can give you some feedback, (there are alot of us, these days!) You can also contact me for a free mini-coaching session to begin to discover where the lights are that can lead to your passionate, meaningful life. And, if you prefer to undergo this process in the company of like-minded individuals with a clear blueprint, join the Entrepreneur Business Coaching Series now!
In closing, here are a few of my favorite quotes by Michael Quinn Patton:
“Watch for, nurture and support the conditions that generate flow and lead to tipping points.”
“Don’t expect to get it right the first or second or third or fourth time. Indeed, keep questioning what it even means to get it right.”
“Learn to live the paradox of action as reflection, and reflection as action.”