Monday, July 03, 2006

The Pursuit of Happiness

CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite TV shows, had the theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” yesterday. This, of course, was tied to tomorrow, the Fourth of July, and America’s founding credo, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The program started out with a 78-year-old man who has worked more than 50 years as a garbage collector in New York City. Most of us would agree that being a garbage collector would be a difficult, undesirable job, but this man was happy. He said that he liked the exercise that he got, that anything smelly was smelly only briefly, and that he liked being around people. In all the years on the job, he hasn’t taken one sick day. And once a year, he takes his family on a cruise.

Dr. Ed Diener, a psychology professor who studies happiness at the University of Illinois, was interviewed later in the show. He’s trying to develop a scale that measures well-being (the academic word for happiness) and thinks that such a device could be used to evaluate general societal trends. Professor Diener supports the idea of having an ongoing poll of the US to determine well-being, a gauge that would no doubt be important for politicians to heed.

He also suggests that there are different categories of happiness, the here and now and long-term. For an example of short-term, here and now happiness, consider Johan, who now is 4 years old and loves to run barefoot in his back yard, climb under, around and over anything in his path. This is a happy boy.

Long term, as I now have 60+ days till retirement, I’m pondering how I’ll be able to find purposeful happiness in my life. I’m considering going to a Yoga class, being with my family much more than I’ve been able to since my children were very young, making Footsies, and perhaps doing some Hospice volunteer work. The possibilities abound.

What’s your idea of happiness?


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