Tuesday, 11 November 2008

the art of happiness

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the question of how to be happy for a long time. So much of our happiness is down to our personal quirks, the vagaries of our days, whether the guy in the café butters your bagel while it’s hot out of the toaster so it goes all deliciously melty, or waits for it to go cold and then thickly slathers cold grease over it. But it seems that the structures for improving happiness might actually be fairly quantifiable.

To some extent, a one-size-fits-all approach is still pretty effective. Physical activity is proven to improve emotional wellbeing, for example. So is feeling engaged within a community, be it colleagues, family, or fellow members of the Justin Vernon Appreciation Society.

But listening to Martin Seligman’s talk on TED last night, it got me thinking about how much of happiness is also knowing who we are, and skewing our lives in the directions we’re more or less built to go in. He talks about the Pleasurable Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life, and though I’m totally mangling this, each of us is hardwired with certain skills to derive more happiness from one of these ways of living more than any other.

It made me realise I maybe just don’t know myself very well. Which is interesting, really…hi, nice to meet me! I sat down to take Seligman’s Signature Strengths questionnaire and the process of working out my answers was as interesting as the results. I think it’s cheating, but I had to enlist my housemate, Badam’s, help with some of them. Would friends say I can be arrogant? Um, Badam?

So 240 questions, 2 glasses of wine and the realisation that I am utterly unambitious later, I get to find out what my signature strengths are and it’s pretty much a longwinded way of saying surprise! YOU’RE A LIBRAN.


reuben said...


haven't i told you all this a billion times before? i mean, i'm no TED approved genius or nuffin', i just know what i see...

: )


ps. i been away because life has been poo, and i won't blog poo. no more litanies of woe. starting to feel better, so back soon. squiring marty around melbs and watching him fall in love with it, as you do.

so where the bloody hell are you?

pps. the word verification is eprewaxi - please don't. sounds like a cyber pep-talk given by a computer before you assault your bits' natural foliage.

rachel hunt said...

im not allowed to work out my answers it seems as im not registered to do so.

rachel hunt said...

ok, apparently...

Your Top Strength
Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

Your Second Strength
Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

Your Third Strength
Bravery and valor
You are a courageous person who does not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right even if there is opposition. You act on your convictions.

Your Fourth Strength
Kindness and generosity
You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.

Your Fifth Strength
Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a "real" person.