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Hayden Bixby

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Happiness

Posted: 02/21/2012 7:02 pm

It seems like lots of people around me are talking about happiness these days.

My friend Roko made a movie called "Happy," and he and his team just pulled off a global World Happy Day that asked audiences to consider the source of real happiness.

There's an organization where I live, in Seattle, called the Happiness Initiative: it is attempting to tie civic planning to the happiness of citizens.

We strive for happiness in our home, and we talk endlessly about increasing satisfaction (aka happiness) at work...

But my favorite recent quote about happiness comes from a perhaps unlikely place. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review has this to say:

"Happiness comes from the intersection of what you love, what you're good at, and what the world needs."

The premise of this article is that passion, though it's the characteristic we've been told provides the push toward satisfying work, is perhaps too self-centered an impetus to make us truly happy. Instead, the author (Oliver Segovia) encourages readers to consider how something as mundane as simply matching one's skills to the needs of others might actually provide a more enduring joy in what we do.

This resonates with me!

I've watched passionate people inspire crowds and follow their own bliss, and I know that a passionate believer in a cause can draw attention to it like nothing else. But I've also seen the limitations of "passion"-- all that energy without a plan or a pre-determined set of principles can keep a cause in a constant spin cycle of creative reinvention.

Reading this article, then, gave me some permission to proudly assert myself as the occasionally dispassionate, process-obsessed, number-crunching program coordinator of Cura Orphanage.

That's not to say I'm not wildly in love with the children I help serve, and I can't deny the selfish pleasure I get every time I'm lucky enough to board a plane to yet again cross the planet to land in Kenya. But it is to acknowledge that the skills I bring to the effort are perhaps the boring kind, but they're essential, too.

The bulk of my work includes identifying or anticipating needs and then sorting out reasonable paths toward meeting them... so I identify with Segovia again when he writes:

Putting problems at the center of our decision-making changes everything. It's not about the self anymore. It's about what you can do and how you can be a valuable contributor. People working on the biggest problems are compensated in the biggest ways. I don't mean this in a strict financial sense, but in a deeply human sense. For one, it shifts your attention from you to others and the wider world. You stop dwelling. You become less self-absorbed. Ironically, we become happier if we worry less about what makes us happy.

Indeed.