Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog Browsing

Last week, I was out of town on a much needed vacation and have not yet gotten back to my usual routine, in the meantime I'd like to spotlight a couple of blogs I enjoy browsing:

Journey Mama - Rae is a mama who is definitely on a journey. She recently moved from northern California to India with her family; her superstar husband and their four children ranging in ages from not yet one to six years old. She is a beautiful writer who posts honestly about her life. Plus, she includes amazing photos of her friends and family and an occasional video or two.

Two Kitties - This is the sort of blog I envisioned creating when I started my first blog, A Little Bit of Culture, but soon felt I wasn’t up to the task. Heidi, who is an artist, is much more qualified. Her blog's eclectic posts are guaranteed to fulfill your daily culture fix.

Retired Syd- I became fascinated with this blog after realizing how much Sydney and I have in common; both of us work/worked as accountants, neither of us are/were totally enamored with this profession (I think this has to do with the long hours and the stress), both of us are in our forties, and both of us blog as a hobby. I have always dreamed of retiring early, Sydney actually did (a year ago at age 44). Reading Sydney's blog gives me a glimpse into what life would be like in early retirement. I can dream can’t I!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Does Happiness have a Set Point?

Recently on Gretchen Rubin's blog, "The Happiness Project", Gretchen interviewed the ever brazen Penelope Trunk about happiness. Penelope, in her words, is "pissy" about happiness research. She doesn’t think the discussion “Am I Happy” is productive or that there is a lot of happiness in life only a lot of hopefulness. Her happiness level in life doesn’t particularly change depending on where she is in life. She has a sort of setpoint. She veers from it in the same way she veers from her regular weight the day after Thanksgiving -- She always goes back to that setpoint.

In a later post, Gretchen attempts to debunk the myth Nothing Changes a Person's Happiness Level Much. Gretchen writes:

Major life events can have strong, lasting effects on people’s happiness. For example, although people adapt quickly to marriage, it takes much longer for widows to adapt to widowhood. Losing a job, getting divorced—these kinds of events make a significant lasting impact on happiness. Adaptation varies considerably among people. Some get over changes quickly, while others take much longer to adapt, if they ever do.

This is the way I’ve come to think about this question: People are born with a natural range of temperament, but circumstances, actions, and thoughts can push people up to the top of their range or down to the bottom of their range.

I find myself agreeing so completely with Alex Lickerman at Happiness in this world's comment; I am including it in its entirety:

I've found the level of happiness I enjoy seems to fluctuate from moment-to-moment depending on how resistant I am to the vagaries of external forces pressing on my life-condition. When good things happen I tend to feel good for a while and when bad things happen I tend to feel bad for a while. But I've become convinced that if we work to increase our capacity to experience happiness, like exercising a muscle it will grow stronger, and the set point around which our happiness fluctuates will inevitably rise. But it really does seem to require diligent, consistent effort and the pursuit of a path that actually works. It also seems to me there are far more bad ways to pursue happiness than good ways.

I am not sure if happiness has a set point, but I do know when events in my life take a turn for the worst, I’ve learned the “process of pushing myself” out of my comfort zone to search out what makes me happier always seems to help; this is the same process I’m using in my current project "Getting My Ducks in a Row". Another technique I’ve employed with success is writing entries in my gratitude journal.

Also, I don't place much credence on personal assessments such as the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire. This questionnaire requires you to answer questions by picking one statement in each group that best describes the way you have been feeling. I think these types of questionnaires are easily skewed based on how you subconsciously feel the outcome should be.

If you'd like to read more on the subject of happiness; my favorite book on the subject is Tal Ben-Shahar's Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Passion at Work

Unlike my brother, who has known since junior high school he wanted to be an architect; I never had a clear plan as to what I wanted to do when I grew up. I am now 46 and I still don’t know. I love asking recent high school grads what their career plans are. This is not because I am nosy, I’m looking for ideas.

Then there is my DH who never had a passion for a particular career, but knew himself well enough to make career decisions based on his proficiencies. By knowing his strengths and limitations, he knew when to take the promotion and when to say no thanks; I’ll stay where I’m at. I believe this has resulted in him being happier with his work in the long run.

As part of "Getting my Ducks in a Row," I read Lawler Kang’s Passion at Work: How to Find Work You Love and Live the Time of Your Life.It was recommended by a friend who found the exercises helpful in sorting out her own career issues. In the past, I’ve been skeptical of authors who claimed their book would help you discover things such as your work passion, but at this point in my life I what do I have to lose.

The book is divided into 5 P’s:
Passion – What do you want your tombstone to say?
Proficiencies- What can the whole and impassioned you be the best at.
Priorities – Matrix this.
The Plan
Prove – How do you fund your plan?

I read most of the book and made it through step three on the exercises (I was unable to complete step 4- the plan, since I didn't come up with a passion). Despite not discovering my life passion, I did learn some useful insights about myself from the exercises. In comparing the results from step one and step two, I was able to see clear patterns. I enjoy challenging projects; going back to school, becoming a CPA, analyzing financial data, even writing this blog. Perhaps, that is what I need, another challenging project. Something I am solely responsible for.

In reading this book, I may not have discovered my life passion, but I did come away with a better understanding of myself. I rate the book 3.5/5.