What makes you happy?

A short-term view of happiness would lean towards accomplishing big goals like finishing a marathon, implementing a new computer system, or hosting the family for Christmas dinner.  The energy and focus needed to pull your mind and body together for a few hours, days, or sometimes weeks is a great adrenaline rush and the sense of accomplishment is a thrill.  But happiness shouldn’t be just about the short period of time when you feel you're on top of the world, but a lifestyle choice that is your normal.  Getting there takes getting to know yourself and laying out a course to get you happy most of the time because life’s twists and turns and ups and downs will guarantee that you’ll never be happy all the time.

For myself, I like a balance of social, physical, and intellectual activities.  That balance is achieved over weeks and months, not hours and days, so some days will be a lot more of one than the others, but over the course of a somewhat longer timeframe, things will even out.  

My Myers-Briggs personality profile is an ENTJ, the letters standing for Extrovert, seNsing, Thinking, and Judging, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  While I’m an extrovert, I’m just barely an extrovert, 52% to 48%, meaning I prefer social activities in moderation.  If I spend a few hours presenting to a group of people, I like to take a few hours off in seclusion.  Conversely, if I spend a morning heads-down in my work, door closed and ignoring the phone, later in the day I’ll roam the halls looking for someone to have a conversation with.  In this dimension, my happiness is some of this and some of that, just in small doses.

The second leg of the happiness triangle is doing something physical.  Running has taken the majority of time in this dimension, but golfing and walking are common also.  In my youth basketball and baseball were prevalent, changing to tennis, racketball, and squash in college.  Running has been my favorite since my junior year in high school and being part of the track team my senior year.  I ran the two-mile race most often and consistently ran those races in just over eleven minutes.  I once ran the last leg of a two-mile relay, getting the baton in third place and managing to keep that position for the exhausting two minutes and seventeen seconds needed to complete my two laps.  I’ve finished one marathon and more half-marathons and 10K races than I can remember.  I ran some of the very first Turkey Trot races in Miamisburg, Ohio, back when just a few hundred die-hards would race, very different than the ten thousand plus that shows up in recent years.  Running easy gave me time to think, running fast or very long distances was a great stress relief and running races fueled the competitive juices.  

The final component is something intellectual and fortunately, my job always provided this in abundance.  As life went on some of that intellectual stimulation switched from writing programs to writing blogs.  I find writing a few pages for a blog or newsletter very much the same as writing a few pages of computer code.  I have to decide what to write, be clear on its purpose, break it down into sections, write down the words, either in English or some computer language, and finally review it a time or two.  Another recent intellectual exercise is doing genealogy research, spending hours combing through online records, visiting cemeteries, and going to libraries in search of clues.  I’ve made about 2,000 contributions to Family Search since I’ve retired and established that permanent record for others to discover is an extra benefit to loving to challenge my intellect.

The real key to all the above is keeping it in balance and perspective, and adapting to the realities of getting older.  The formula is still the same, just the activities are different.


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