Sunday, January 17, 2016

On the Adaptive Nature of Happiness

Earlier today, I decided to buy my favorite salad for dinner....but, the restaurant was closed.

Foiled. So, I went up the street to a different restaurant, with a different salad in mind....but, that particular salad was only a limited-time special and was no longer on the menu. So, I ordered a different salad and some kind of butternut squash soup, and went on my way and made do.

Blah blah blah, metaphors, analogies, you catch my intro drift.

Earlier this week, while probably daydreaming through something else I was supposed to be focusing on, my mind turned to the topic of happiness. And, adaptability. But, you knew that from the title of this blog. I'VE SPOILED THE SURPRISE I AM THE LITERAL WORST

If I could sum up the gist of my daydream thought stream, it would be something like: there's a lot of unhappiness in still trying to squeeze happiness out of something you need to let go of. And conversely, there's a lot of happiness in recognizing when one situation is dry and accepting that life moves on.

"Hey, little bro, life's tough -- get a helmet."
-Eric Matthews, Boy Meets World

I find myself in this spot all the time. Something changes in life....anything from a relationship going cold, to an injury or illness sidelining my fitness goals, to weather delaying my travel plans, etc....and life marches on, but I stubbornly don't march with it. I try and push through injuries I shouldn't. I try and breathe life back into relationships that I need to let rest. I try and force a dead situation to give me the happiness it either once did, or that I trusted it to eventually deliver. I try and claw down restaurant doors and demand my favorite salads*.

*did not actually occur

When I took the job I'm in now, during my interviews for the role, I asked my interviewers a question: "In people you've seen come and go from this company, what would you say is a common trait among the people who can keep up and stay in it for the long haul?" The majority of the answers included one key concept: adaptability.

Rolling with the punches. Being able to recover and reconfigure and redefine success in a rapidly changing environment.

Metaphor time again: this is advice you can benefit from spreading it all over your life. Like butter on a piece of freshly toasted raisin bread. (What? Idk.)

How can you keep up with life's inevitable changes? For me, the answer is adjusting how I measure my happy. And reconfiguring what it is that I choose to celebrate.

If I have a goal to run a half marathon, but then my groin gets injured (I see you, Fall 2014), the only way I can stay satisfied in that situation is to adjust my happiness parameters. While I may have planned to celebrate running 7 or 8 or 9 miles on a Saturday morning, instead I'd celebrate eating a healthy breakfast when I knew I couldn't physically work out.

Or, maybe you invested months or years of your life in a relationship and it fell apart around you. And, you feel like the only way to be happy is with that person, doing the things you planned, living the life you talked about together. But, you can't anymore. So, you adjust your plan. You measure your happy with a different yardstick. Or, you use the same ol' yardstick (or look at other people's yardsticks) and feel troubled by what you don't have or aren't doing*.

*not recommended

I think I've driven the point home.

For me, happiness is an ever evolving and ever changing concept. If I still hung on to my definition of a happy life from age 19 or 22 or 25, I'd be suffocating. If I measured my happiness in October (when work was ka-razy) by the expectations I had for my time/leisure/personal development in July, I'd have been wickedly unsatisfied. Yesterday, happiness was going to the gym. Today, happiness was lounging around on a rainy day. Maybe tomorrow happiness will mean leaving work when it's light outside, or a funny text convo with friends, or someone replacing the mini york peppermint patty stash on the snack shelf (#HOPES #DREAMS #SQUADGOALS). Or maybe the day will go terribly horribly no good very bad wrong and happiness will simply mean washing my face and crawling in bed at the end of it to sleep it off. Who can say?

Pictured: when happiness meant spontaneous Star Wars hair on a Friday night

The long and short is: if you aren't feeling happy, maybe it's not always the situation that you need to change. Sometimes it is, but other times it isn't. Sometimes, the only thing you need to change is the data points you're measuring the outcome by.

hap-pi-ness /ˈhapēnəs/ noun - whatever the hell you want it to be*

*subject to change whenever the hell you want it to


Lauralee said...

What the whoa. These are also my ponderings lately!!! Have you ever read "As a Man Thinketh"? It's 30 pages of delicious nuggets on how our mind creates our world/perspective/happiness - not our circumstances. Here are some of my fav faaav quotes from it:

"Today we are where our thoughts have taken us, and we are the architects - for better or worse - of our futures."

"Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly masions of joy and strength and peace."

"Man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth."

"The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought."

And the final one that is the framework for all my resolutions this year: "Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound."

Thanks for sharing Bahookster!!

Budget Splurge Beauty said...

I really needed this right now