I read an interesting book this weekend, The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner. The author, who is a self professed "grump" charted his journey through a number of countries ranging from Bhutan to Moldova and the U.S. in search of what defines and creates happiness for people. It is a pretty interesting book that demonstrates that the correlation between standard of living, weather, and other factors is not nearly as absolute as we would think. It would seem that Maslow had it right.
The importance of relationships between people was a constant recurring theme. People and cultures with a strong relationship network are generally happier. When the author posed the question of whether or not there was a higher "state" of evolution than happiness to an Indian guru, the guru responded that love and relationships are indeed higher.
The other thing that was profound was the relationship between doing something you perceive as having a purpose you can personally align with had on happiness or contentment. I know it is critically important to me, is was interesting to have it "validated". It was also interesting that being able to share that purpose with others by talking about it or literally sharing the activity is very important as well. It would seem happiness is rarely solitary.
It was also interesting that happiness needs polarity. Happiness without sadness or emotional "pain" becomes vanilla or complacency. People who pursue things vigorously enjoy the benefits of both "poles" more than those who navigate only smooth waters.
Probably the most interesting place he visited to me was Iceland. It is dark and cold there a lot, it is a relatively small geographical area, but has a very high "happiness" index. I particularly liked the Icelandic perspective that experimenting with multiple careers and interests is encouraged, not based on your "talent", but rather your passion. Since I seem prone to reinventing myself perhaps that is why it resonates with me. Sounds like the Icelanders where embracing and celebrating "whole people" long before I began pursuing it.
So in the dog days of August I leave you with these reflections-
- Relationships really are important
- Doing what you love may bring you more happiness than doing what you excel at
- Sharing your passions and interests seems to multiply rather than diminish them
- Happiness without pain or sadness is like love without passion, a little bland
What do you think...?