I was out for a walk and this happened. This moment of happiness. One of the happiest I have experienced to date. Not that there haven’t been other wonderful, glorious moments; I live a blessed life. You could ask me about my wedding day surrounded by family, or the day I assisted in the birth of my best friend’s child or that magical trip to the South of France with my girlfriends. There have been countless perfectly ripe apples eaten fresh from the tree, drowsy naps in a hammock or thank you cards from clients. All happy moments.
But THIS moment, this moment was the happiest because I was there to experience it.
I was present.
And I knew that I was happy.
And somehow, that changes everything.
Like most of us, I was taught the golden rule of happiness way back in kindergarten, but it had gotten lost in the land of “ambition” and “busy”. Remember it? I am sure you sang it while dancing in a circle, just as I did. “If you’re happy AND YOU KNOW IT…..”
The key to happiness is not just being blessed to have the occasion, it is about being able to witness yourself in the moment. To know you are there, to hear yourself whisper, “THIS, this moment Tania, notice this”.
Happiness is the new buzzword for the ambitious. It has replaced “success” in many ways; most of my coaching conversations at some point slide over to this highly coveted state. It turns out ‘to be happy’ is the motivation for just about anything. It has become the subject of trending Positive Psychology studies and the target of new leadership practices. In fact, it is even adopted by countries as they now measure Gross National Happiness alongside the GDP.
But like “success”, in order for this to be a marker of a life well-lived, you need two things; to know what it is for you, and to know when you have it.
You need to be able to declare “I am happy and I know it”… well, how do you know it? Are you clear? Can you name what makes you happy? Can you name how you feel when you are there? Can you stay present to enjoy it?
It wasn’t until I really took a hard look at what happiness meant to me, that I was able to really feel it. I needed to set my own standards for my sense of joy. It took a lot of reflection on the things that I thought I was striving for, to evaluate each one, to see if they truly brought me the experience of happiness and my life well lived.
What is this elusive happiness? Sonya Lyubomirsky (sonjalyubomirsky.com, a happiness researcher, defines it as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Seems simple enough and yet, it requires that I am present to note the experience, that I know what my well-being looks like, that I am comfortable accepting my own contentment, that I can lean into what is meaningful and worthwhile according to my own vision of my life well lived.
Life was so “busy”, my mind racing to the next thought: the self-improvement I would undertake, the efforts I would make, the lists of groceries, chores and oh jeez I left the wet laundry in the washing machine. Of course, then came sudden thoughts of a husband that I love and wondering if I’ve demonstrated it enough? Note to self to do this, drink less, write more, book the next trip, call that friend…
But at no moment during all that busy did I experience the moment of contentment as I sat on the park bench under a cloudless blue sky, instinctively turning my chin up to feel the rays. The chatter excludes the experience of happiness.
Today as I walked with Harry, Morley and Sue I settled into the experience. The smell of wet fall leaves, (they are pungent, nutty - they remind me of mushrooms and dirt), the drizzle on my face, the intimacy of my friend Sue’s conversation, the feel of slippery below my rain boot. The experience of giving my friend time and space, of honouring our connection, the gratitude that all this moment asked of me was to hold on tight to my end of the leash.
And so I clapped my hands and did the hokey pokey.
And took this picture.
How will you know when you are happy?