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Happiness: the key

What is happiness?

In his book "Happiness by Design," Paul Dolan defines happiness as "experiences of pleasure and purpose over time."

Dolan suggests that pleasure encompasses the immediate and enjoyable sensations we experience from indulging in activities like savoring delicious food, engaging in intimate encounters, or watching a humorous movie. On the contrary, purpose relates to the sense of significance and contentment derived from pursuits that harmonize with our values and objectives. These may include volunteering, cultivating hobbies, expressing ourselves through work or career, or cherishing quality time with our loved ones.

Dolan argues that genuine happiness arises from striking a balance between pleasure and purpose rather than favoring one while neglecting the other. He further emphasizes that the sources of happiness can vary for each individual and underscores the importance of structuring our lives in accordance with our distinct values and priorities.

Why we have problems being happy

Paul Dolan is right it defining happiness as including both the elements of purpose, what we often call "meaning," and pleasure. Indulging in one without the other is unfulfilling and dysfunctional. This aligns very closely to my idea of the importance of Now-Next Integrity

What is missing in Dolan's book is a clear approach to achieving the "balance" he talks about. On top of that, since our societies tend to lionize purpose and especially the purpose of serving others, while often villainizing pleasure, we are frequently stymied in our attempt to create and maintain a happy life.

Priority makes all the difference

Though it might seem paradoxical, to secure X, we often need to prioritize Y ahead of X.

Consider the duties of an air-traffic controller as an illustration.

In layman's terms, the air traffic controller's objective is twofold: 1) to facilitate aircrafts' timely landings and takeoffs and 2) to ensure their landings and takeoffs are safe.

During their duties, there could arise situations when the values of "timeliness" and "safety" collide. In such instances, the controller invariably places "safety" before "timeliness."

We often struggle to act as an effective air-traffic controllers of our own life

To put it plainly, our life's objectives are twofold: 1) to attain specific outcomes, and 2) to find joy in the journey (given that the ultimate goal of life is to pursue happiness).

Yet, for the majority of us, when there's a clash between delighting in the journey and achieving outcomes, we often give precedence to the latter, fostering attitudes of "endure and persevere, toughen up, no gain without pain, life is tough." The concept of savoring the journey and process is frequently relegated to the back seat. From an early age, be it through parents, educators, peers, or leaders, we've been instilled with the notion that the honorable, character-driven individual is the one willing to stomach the process in order to secure the result.

The consequence of this is that our days, weeks, and months become a chaotic battlefield of tasks and projects vying for supremacy, leading to metaphorical 'plane crashes', much like the boisterous childhood game of "king of the mountain." The fallout includes the persistent feeling of never accomplishing enough by day's end as well as not loving the journey and privilege of each day. Moreover, we often unintentionally sacrifice what's important for what's urgent or what provides immediate relief. The outcome is, regardless of how much we accomplish, there's rarely a satisfying sense of fulfillment at the end of the day. Furthermore, in the grand scheme of things, we generally achieve less than we would have had we prioritized the processes over results.

A simple quiz to assess how well you're doing the job of being the air-traffic controller of your life

How did you do?

To the extent that your score was below 90%, if you were the air-traffic controller of anyone else's life, they should fire you!

"But what can I do?!"

Although becoming a competent air-traffic controller for your life involves more than looking just one day ahead, if you become consistent in doing a good job at that, then starting to deal with longer time frames will naturally follow.

A great day means a great life

I'll make it easy for you. The steps and guideline are straightforward. 

First are the instructions. Following these instructions, facilitated by the special "The Perfect Day" Google Sheets planning template, becoming adept at being the air-traffic controller of your life will be like a walk in the park.

Here are the instructions: The Doer and the Guesstimater.

And here's your The Perfect Day planning template. Copy it now.

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