Finding Happiness: Is it in the being or in the doing?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How often did you hear that question growing up?

Well meaning as the questioners may have been, we know that what they really meant was, “What do you want to do?” Our culture places great emphasis on doing and working. Our very identity gets wrapped up in activity and productivity—particularly if our actions translate into buying power. We are not as rewarded, generally speaking, for simply being.

Small wonder then, that as grow, we often lose sight of those things that bring us joy.

As a child, summers seemed like they went on forever. Plans weren’t needed and my worth wasn’t measured by accomplishments. Whatever I felt like doing, I could do. Riding bikes, roller-skating, swimming, and building forts with the neighbors filled many a summer afternoon. Other times, reading alone in my backyard tent or lying on my back staring at the clouds for hours hit the spot. As the mood struck, I went with it—free of judgment, free of accomplishment.

What I now know is that I actually was accomplishing something. Being in the moment, following my passions, and hanging out with friends was necessary and healing. Without knowing it, I was practicing the pillars of a happy life, which are a byproduct of just being, not so much in the doing.

By high school, I had lost that effortlessness. The way to get ahead, I learned, is to do well in school and get a good job. Achieving goals became the priority. The more I accomplished, the better I’ll feel—or so I thought. I’ve been a master of the daily “to-do list” ever since.

When the drive for success left me unfulfilled, however, I began to look for another way. Since then, I have been on a private quest for happiness. I suspect secretly we all are.

My quest ultimately led me to find nine of the happiest people I know and interview them about how they made happiness the cornerstone in their lives.

My book, Full Heart Living, is a distillation of those interviews. The good news is that I learned that happiness is not some fleeting result of achieving or accomplishing something. Rather, it is a set of skills one can learn.

The happiest people I interviewed were my teachers. I will be forever grateful for what they taught me. In fact, they changed my life. And I want them to help change yours.

The response to Full Heart Living has been overwhelming, which confirms my suspicion that people’s needs aren’t being fully met. Most schools and places of worship fail to teach happiness skills. And sadly, too often the same is true in many homes.

In these rocky times, the need for information about happiness is greater than ever. To that end, some of my readers asked me to start this blog where I can answer their questions, talk about new insights, tell new stories, and offer new tips.

In both the being and the doing, I look forward to bringing more happiness into our world.