Saturday, August 18, 2007
I had a professor at Darden, Elliot Weiss, who taught operations. In class he made one very simple statement that I think about all the time - "What gets measured gets done." We have performance reviews to keep us on task. We have bank accounts and investment returns to track our wealth. We have health measurements - cholesterol levels, sugar levels, blood pressure, body temperature. And any alteration in these levels causes us to re-examine our actions in that area of our lives. So what about our happiness? If we simply come up with a way to measure it and chart it, can we in fact improve our happiness like we do our health, our wealth, and our career success?
I spend a lot of time considering happiness - how to create it, how to get it back when plans go awry, and how to hang onto it when life seems to good to be true. This last one was on my mind just this morning. Today was one of those days in New York - 70 degrees, sunny, and breezy - the exact weather that makes me well up with gratefulness that I am simply alive. I went for my first long morning walk in Riverside Park, a place I plan to spend a lot of time in a) because it's beautiful and b) because it's right outside my door step, literally. I was walking along the river, watching the boats pass by. People were whizzing by me on bikes, jogging along, some alone, some with friends. Dogs were hanging out with their owners. People were reading and playing tennis. All the flowers were in full bloom. And everything, everything, was shining. My world, in that moment, was alight with happiness.
I commute 40 minutes to work each way so I have at least 80 minutes of solitary time to think, and I spend much of that time checking in with myself. Did I do a good job at work today? Did I do the very best I could? Was there something I missed? I make lists, lots and lots of lists. What to do, who to call or see, things I need to research, errands to run, things I need to buy. And now I'm wondering if I could make a list of happy circumstances. Could I list out things to do or see specifically because they increase my level of happiness. And by checking them off, could I somehow assign an incremental increase to my happiness. By the same token, could I also make a list of things that decrease my happiness, and then find a way to avoid them. In a sense, I want to put myself on a happiness budget. Is it that simple? Is happiness an asset like any other? If so, can we tend to it the way we do our health and our finances, to develop a relatively sure fire-way to increase its value?
Food for thought.....and speaking of food I need to run and get some and then see my charming friends, Lisa, Heather, and Didier for drinks at the Maritime hotel on 15th Street and 9th Avenue. I'm going to ponder this happynomics model a little more. As always, when I have some more insights, or simply some more questions, I'll share them with you right here.
The picture above was found at http://www.jamrecordings.com/images/Jeremy-Finding_the_Way_to_be_Happy.jpg.