Tuesday, February 12, 2008

R U Happy?

This past year has presented a number of opportunities for me to examine my life: my choices, my attitudes, my passions, my frustrations, my foibles, my idiosyncrasies, and ultimately, my outcomes.

Outcomes. We talk about this a lot at work. In the work world, there is no point (or at least minimal pointed-ness) in activities which cannot be measured and have value extracted via the rubric of bureaucracy and achievement; outcomes, results, data and so on. And frankly, I ascribe to this notion as a work tactic.

The question that has been dogging me lately is this: Does this rubric also apply to my life? Is my life measured in outcomes? Is my happiness, contentment, joie de vivre, measured by results? What is an acceptable outcome? Is the outcome we are all shooting for happiness? Have we been conditioned to live life with the fundamental goal of happiness? And if so, is this really a great idea?

I read an article recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson. The article explored the notion that we are blindly led to always search for the next big thing, the next job, the next relationship, the next vacation, the next thing that will lead to our next (oftentimes fleeting) experience of happiness. In the process we not only fail to live in the now, we also fail to celebrate the experience of being less than happy. Hell, what about the experience of sorrow, longing, frustration, yearning, and even full on melancholy? One could argue (and Eric G. Wilson did) that these unhappy things can result in a zen-like state which produces amazing results, the least of which are the development of great character and great possibility and even (dare I say it) results!

Does this mean there is something more in this quest for meaning and results than just the blind quest to be happy?

There has been some sorrow and brushes with danger/death in my life lately. The sweet and silly puppy our family was growing to love so well was killed by a car on Christmas Eve. Brian was in two (minor) car accidents in the month of December. A close friend miraculously escaped certain grave injury in a major collision with an 18 wheeler last week. Gabe was struck in the head with a rock over the weekend, cutting his scalp badly. It's been a wild winter.

Yet, none of these events singularly has shaken me. I'm a pretty happy go lucky kind of chick. But with all the durm and strang of life the question keeps popping up: What are your goals and outcomes? Are you happy? Is that even the right question?

I would like to propose some alternate questions:

How are your results? What is the outcome of your life (to date)?

Do you even really know what results you are going for?

Are you driving your life's vehicle?

Do you know where you are going?

Are you celebrating the journey, detours, flat tires and all? (Holy over-baked metaphor there! Sorry!)

Are you living life with regret? Resentment?

The answers I am coming up with are something like this: I am not going to live life in the pursuit of happiness. That will never be enough.

How about the pursuit of Fearlessness?

I'm thinking...