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....pursuing happiness

Being an INFJ (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), you’d think I would be ideally positioned to discover the secret of happiness, with my Intuition preference (N) inviting endless possibility, my Feeler preference (F) enabling intense emotional connection and my Judger preference (J) insisting on getting the job done! I say this because, according to Angela Lee Duckworth* Passion + Perseverance = Grit, and those of us who are the most successful in our endeavours are the gritty ones. She goes on to say, ‘Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.’

Talking of grit, when it comes to pursuing my goals, I’m as tenacious as a dog with a bone, employing unswerving diligence and delayed gratification in order to attain the higher prize; however, as with the idea of reaching the end of the rainbow, remaining in a state of happiness seems elusive.

My take on happiness is probably having all my ducks in a row, all of the time…….yes, everything in order and going right……period! It’s a tall order I know, but according to the fairy stories we listened to growing up, there is the struggle, then the overcoming and finally the happily-ever-after. I have always thought of this as one journey with a final destination, but life seems more about many parallel journeys, all requiring battles of their own, producing a constant mix of dark and light, ups and downs, losses and wins, the mundane and the joyful, depending upon where we are along the road, at any one time, with each of our challenges.

Ingrid Fetell Lee* shone some helpful light on this from her research on joy. She explains that, ‘When psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is an intense momentary experience of positive emotion, one that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down. It’s different from happiness, which measures how good we feel over time, joy is about feeling good in the moment – right now. This is interesting because as a culture we are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, and yet in the process we overlook joy’. As part of her research, she asked people where they thought joy came from and she got the same answers over and over again…….. ‘cherry blossoms, bubbles, swimming pools, tree-houses, hot-air balloons, googlie-eyes, ice-cream cones, rainbows, and fireworks’ etc.

She continues, ‘What is it about these things that makes them so joyful? I saw all these patterns, round things, pops of bright colour, symmetrical shapes, a sense of abundance and multiplicity, a feeling of lightness or elevation. I realised that although the feeling of joy is mysterious and elusive, we can access it through tangible physical attributes. These patterns were telling me that joy begins with the senses – the sensations of joy. Then I noticed, that as I walked around, I began spotting little moments of joy everywhere I went, and now that I knew what to look for I was seeing it everywhere. It was like these little moments of joy were hidden in plain sight.’

‘Each moment of joy is small but over time they add up to more than the sum of their parts. So maybe, instead of chasing after happiness, what we should be doing is embracing joy and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often. Deep within us we all have this impulse to seek out joy in our surroundings, and we have it for a reason. Joy isn’t some superfluous extra, it’s directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. At the most basic level, the drive towards joy is the drive towards life.’

So rather than searching for the single jewel of happiness, discovering instead a bouquet of joys hiding right within the rough and smooth of life, might actually put the end of the rainbow within our grasp. Intentionally stringing together these moments of joy like pearls on a necklace, we can learn to create a state of happiness right where we are, in spite of our circumstances, and help ourselves to celebrate the life we have today, instead of waiting for the one we are reaching for - tomorrow.

*Angela Lee Duckworth - ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’

*Ingrid Fetell Lee - ‘Where Joy Hides and How To Find It’



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