Applied Happiness

If you were told you could do a few simple things and be happier, what would you do?

A:  Say, “Is that so?  Tell me more?” and be open to giving it a shot?

– Or –

B:  Run like a scalded cat the other way?

It’s an important question.  How you answer it may be the difference between being alive and living.  We’ve seen both answers along the path to the Happy LIFE – a self-propelled journey into creating “happy habits” – that is starting to make the rounds to employees of companies who think like we do at Life University.  Perhaps predictably, their experience has been similar to ours at at LIFE U.

An esteemed colleague (translation:  He’s a VP and way above my pay grade but I like him and he’s always been great to work with), summarized our Happy LIFE implementation like this:  “All, here’s the truth for me.  Remembering to compliment people is a challenge for me.  After sending “gratitudes” through Happy LIFE, I now express my appreciation more. The program will sound kooky to some, but it works in at least one way for everyone.”

I’d have to agree with my esteemed colleague.  But, unlike him, I’d say I’m fairly fluent in the language of affirmation (I have to be in order to balance out all the snarky things I say to get a laugh; in fact, I’d add Sharing Laughter as the sixth love language).  That means that I love to notice things that I can genuinely compliment people about.  For those who’ve read Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages,”* you’ll be familiar with Words of Affirmation as one of the five languages people use to express and receive love (and I’d say the same idea applies to kindness, too).

But, I digress.  What I found was this:  As a result of writing emails expressing appreciation for those who’ve made a real difference in my life, I’ve become less self-conscious about following my natural tendency to be complimentary.  Now, I don’t feel like a complete fool for complimenting even strangers if I happen to notice something I admire about them.  And, best of all, I’m finding that, even if a couple of the people I compliment make cracks or look at me like I’m deranged, most people seem pleased as punch to be complimented and thank me for it, often quite warmly.  It’s like we’ve just given each other gifts that are free and that fit perfectly – gifts we can wear in our hearts.

So, if some ol’ broad passes you on the street and says, “That color is perfect for you; everything you wear should include that color!” just believe her.  You look great.

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*Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are:  1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Acts of Service, 3) Receiving Gives, 4) Quality Time and 5) Physical Touch.

The Platinum Rule

The Golden Rule exists in one form or another in every major religion, from Christianity to Zoroastrianism.  Judaism’s version may be my favorite:  “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman.  This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”*  Right?  If you want to epitomize your religion (or your essential ethical principle) to a single concept, making others’ needs equal to your own is a pretty fine anchor and enough said.

And, of course, I fall short of meeting the Golden Rule every day and probably every hour and, if we’re talking about what goes on in my head sometimes, probably every few minutes.  So, it’s not like I think I’m ready to evolve from the practice of the Golden Rule to a higher plane because I’m so good at it.

At the risk of being accused of trying to not only “one-up” Jesus but also the core tenet of every major world religion, I’d like to share the Platinum Rule with you, because it’s been informing my pursuit of the first phase of the Happy LIFE.  What I’d like to ask you to consider is that, sometimes, even when we follow the Golden Rule and treat others as we’d like to be treated, we may be doing them a disservice – because it assumes others would want the same things we want.

When Dr. Riekeman initiated The Happy LIFE at Life University, he asked some of the team members to make their expressions of gratitude public as a way to both let folks know they’re invited to come along on the Happy LIFE journey and as daily reminders so that we increase our chances of making through the twenty-one days – as a community – and turn the activities into habits.  And, because there’s strength in numbers (and shared intention), he hoped the gratitude would spread and grow into more participants.  It seems to be working, too – at least for those who are open to the idea that they could be, well, more open and that simple acts-turned-habits of gratitude and mindfulness might provide a pathway.  However, the Platinum Rule caused me to not share publicly some of my notes to people thanking them for being a force for good in my life.

So, what is the Platinum Rule?  It’s this:  Do unto others as THEY would have you do unto them.  It asks us to take ourselves out of the equation completely and not do for someone else what WE would like but to be as empathetic as possible in considering their preferences.  As an extravert, I appreciate hearing what other people think (and sharing what I think – shocking, I know ;0), especially if it’s words of affirmation (the  Love Language in which I’m most fluent and to which I’m most receptive).  But, I also have strong introverted facets (even more shocking, I’m sure) so I definitely understand internal processing and the need for privacy.  Much more significantly, I’m sure I have just as much room for improvement in following the Platinum Rule as I do in following the Golden Rule.   But, my awareness of the Platinum Rule has allowed me to consider whether or not I share a message of thanks publicly.

If I get it wrong for anyone, I’ll appreciate hearing that, too, so I get it right next time.

*Talmud, Shabbat 3id