“I, not events, have the power
to make me happy or unhappy today.
I can choose which it shall be.
Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.
I have just one day, today, and
I’m going to be happy in it.”

Groucho Marx

In 2014 Pharrell Williams made us all dance for joy with his hit single, “Happy”. Originally written and produced for the film, Despicable Me – 2, the song became the lead single for his second album, GIRL.  The song soared to #1 in 35 countries and won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video .The song was also Billboard’s number-one single for 2014, and witnessed sales of 13.9 million units.  It would seem that happiness is something that everyone wants, whether it is in the form of a single on a hit album, a video featuring 24 Hours of Happy, or as Charles Shultz once said, “Happiness is a warm puppy!”  So how’s happiness working for you? Are you happy, and if so, how happy are you?

Dr. Martin Seligman is a professor at the University of PA and author of Authentic Happiness.  A past President of the American Psychological Association, he  is considered by many to be the father of the modern day school of Positive Psychology. His research demonstrates that the most satisfied, upbeat people are those who have discovered and exploited their unique combination of “signature strengths,” such as humanity, temperance and persistence. He concludes that happiness has three dimensions which can be cultivated: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.

  • The Pleasant Life (pleasure and gratification) – is the basic level of happiness and  is realized if we learn to savor and appreciate such basic pleasures as companionship, the natural environment and our personal needs.  The pleasant life is just as it sounds, it is about having as many pleasures as possible in life, and having the skills to amplify them.
  • The Good Life (the embodiment of strengths and virtues) – is the next level of happiness.  It is a life within which we use our signature strengths every day in the main realms of our lives to bring abundant gratification and authentic happiness.” The good life is a place of happiness, good relationships, and work.
  • The Meaningful Life (meaning and purpose) is  using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you.  Some might say, we becomes so absorbed in the happiness of others that we forget about our own happiness!  This situation enables us to enrich the lives of others while engaging our own strengths and virtues.

Another Penn professor, Richard Shell, considers the happiness question in his book,Springboard:  Launching Your Personal Search for Success. His book helps us understand the interplay of three ideas that have complex connections to each other; success, wealth and happiness.  He believes that success is a moving target and that wealth has very little effect on the day-to-day joy that we experience and none whatever on the larger more spiritual dimensions of happiness, that many consider to be the most important part of their lives.  Like Seligman, he categorizes happiness into three dimensions:

  • Momentary Happiness –  is the most direct, pleasant and sensory form we can experience.  It is the ice cream, or “warm puppy” (Charles Shultz) moment of pleasure, satisfaction, love or fun.  It is a strong positive emotion. It comes in bursts and makes gloomy days brighter and sunny days sweeter.  Want to increase these? Simple, slow down and pay more attention to the pleasant aspects of your life. It’s easier to find them when we look for them.
  • Overall Happiness –  is what your parents were wishing for you or what you are wishing for your children when you say, “I just want you to be happy!”  This level of happiness is about that special, positive quality that would be used to describe your life as a whole. It could refer to a career, good health, finding the right life partner or having stability in your life.
  • Wisdom Happiness – is a form of happiness beyond that first bite of the ice cream or the joy of a close relationship.  Some think of it as the happiness that comes with the acquisition of life experiences and wisdom over the years. “Simcha” is a Hebrew word that can be translated as “happiness”.  The word has several definitions ranging from joy and satisfaction to a feeling of spiritual exultation. A broader definition is provided by Rabbi Akiva Tatz: The experience of the soul that comes when you are doing what you should be doing”.  Another description is, “the experience of moving along your own road, your unique path to your unique destination…the path that leads you to discover and understand yourself.”

When asked , “What can you do to have a good, happy, fulfilling life?”, NYU’s Jonathan Haidt shares that it will not be found searching the emotions of momentary happiness, nor cultivating the happy memories associated with overall happiness.  Instead we should strive to get “the right relationships between ourselves and others, between ourselves and our work, and between ourselves and something larger than ourselves”. From this a sense of meaning and purpose will emerge that will constitute the most genuine form of happiness we can experience.

Each day brings a new dawn and wonderful opportunities.  Use tomorrow and everyday thereafter to cultivate the relationships you will need to find your happiness! Have a great week and,