The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is so fundamental to the American psyche that it is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, one of three inalienable rights that the government is designed to protect.

The Founding Fathers were on to something: Studies show that happier people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales, and show 300% higher creativity.

In our capitalistic society, many individuals equate happiness with earning a certain amount of money. So, they work long hours at jobs that they may not like in order to buy stuff and call it the American Dream. Ironically, numerous studies demonstrate that after basic needs like food and shelter are guaranteed, more money doesn’t increase happiness.

Research by Professor Sonja Luybomirsky has uncovered a “happiness set point” which is a rough guide for determining subjective well-being. She discovered that a certain percentage of happiness, about 50%, is genetically determined. Ten percent is due to external circumstances, the events of life that you can’t do much about. That leaves about 40% of happiness over which we have direct control. 

This is especially relevant today, as there is a great deal of uncertainty during this global pandemic, and yet we continue to strive for happiness. I am interested in living the happiest life possible, and I have spent some time thinking about what makes me feel happy. Among other things, I love connecting with people and I’ve really missed the physical presence of friends and family. So, I have added deliberate connection with people every week in order to raise my happiness quotient and grow my business: 

  1. Phone conversations. I decided to pick up the phone and speak to five people every day, starting with A in my contact list and systematically working my way to Z. I have had wonderful conversations and I’ve picked up four leads for new business in the last week alone.
  2. Coffee chats.  I am surrounding myself with more supportive people and positive thoughts. I host a zoom coffee chat every Friday morning for women from different businesses to connect with each other and discuss a topic that is relevant to their work. One of the regulars describes it as “an idea lab” where ingenious women exchange thoughts, share their struggles, and offer each other business advice in an environment that allows us to learn, not just listen. 
  3. Connecting with self. I spend time every day meditating, journaling and planning. This quiet time allows me to make sure that my business is aligned with my true happiness and helps me figure out my next moves in this period of unprecedented change. 

I challenge you to think about what makes you happy as well as what’s keeping you from happiness right now, and come up with a list of three things you will do to address your subjective well-being in the months to come. (If you are short on ideas, read Sonja Luybomirski’s book The How of Happiness.)

It is interesting to note that the Declaration of Independence does not guarantee happiness, rather it allows each person to pursue whatever it is that makes him or her happy. It is up to each of us to figure out what that means. Although we won’t be going back to the life we knew pre-COVID-19, there is a lot we can do to ensure our happiness going forward by using some thought and a bit of ingenuity.