Positive psychology exhausts me: Requires so much self-discipline.


I recently mentioned a new book about happiness: The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The premise of the book is that we each have a setpoint for happiness—we are born with a proclivity toward being happy or not. But we can affect that proclivity to become happier. And Lyubomirsky tells us how.

There are snooty quotes in the promotional material from other happiness researchers saying that this book is superior to other self-help books because it’s based on science. They think that if you use scientific data to tell someone how to be happy, then the advice is more effective than if you use nonscientific data to tell people how to be happy.

The problem isn’t whether the advice is based on science or not. The problem is that you need to find self-discipline in order to execute the strategies in the first place. If all anyone needed in order to change was a scientific reason then we’d all be muscular and thin.

To be sure, tucked deep inside Lyubomirsky’s book on page 274, is the admission that we need “motivation, drive and inspiration” to do the stuff that she has scientifically shown will get us to happy. But that’s the hardest part. That’s the part I need to read three hundred pages about. If we each had the self-discipline to accomplish whatever we set out to accomplish, the world would be a very different place. But what we have instead is a world divided into the people who have self-discipline (those with good careers, good bodies, and good mates) and people who don’t.

I’m not talking about the self-discipline just to get dinner on the table every night. I’m talking hard-core self-discipline, where you conduct routine investigations of how you feel and what you’re doing, and then make changes. What Lyubomirsky recommends requires a whole mind overhaul through amazing self-discipline, but I can’t even stop eating two bagels for breakfast. (Cut back just one a day! That’s like losing 1.5 pounds a week!)

So I called my favorite positive psychology coach and asked her how to get more self-discipline.

She asked me if I had read Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness.

I told this coach that I’m annoyed by the assumption that self-discipline is just a side note.

And also, I said that by the way, I’m annoyed that in eight years, when only two people have emailed me to correct data in my column, Lyubomirsky is one of those people. I have already written about how people who correct journalists are annoying and generally off-base, so you can imagine how chirpy I was to receive her corrections.

In fact, I remembered from the last time I talked with Lyubomirsky that she was a difficult interview, so I never quoted her directly, so that she would not have a chance to complain about the post. But she ended up sending overly academic clarifications to information that I didn’t even attribute to her. How can she be a happy person when she is such a nitpicker?

If I had good self-discipline, I’d take out those last two paragraphs. Because saying unpleasant things about people will not increase my happiness. And I risk the wrath of the movers and shakers of the positive psychology movement. Leaving those paragraphs in this post is a career-limiting move for me. But we all have recognized a career-limiting move and then done it anyway. So there’s another moment that calls for developing great self-discipline.

My coach has good self-discipline, of course, because she is in the business of teaching people self-discipline. So she did not bite my bait to dis Lyubomirsky. After all, talking trash about people makes you unhappy.

I told the coach that I am frustrated with happiness research because doing any of it requires tons of self-discipline. And I know I have more self-discipline than most people and I’m still overwhelmed with how much more I need.

I tell the coach I want to change the setpoint of my self-discipline. She likes the idea that people might have a setpoint for self-discipline. She has never heard of it, but she likes it. So I am claiming, now, to have coined the term. This, by the way, will only make me happy if it increases my blog traffic. That’s because authentic compliments right after an action are pleasing to us, and what is more authentic than measurable web stats? (Career Advice: This is why you should give co-workers feedback right away and not wait—right away is twice as meaningful to someone.)

The coach says I can change my setpoint for self-discipline by making small, manageable changes, because small, manageable changes will improve your ability to change other things without trying as hard.

This research is quoted all over Lyubomirsky’s book. I believe it.

The coach asks me what I want more self-discipline for.

I say I want to do the most important thing on my to-do list first, every day.

She asks me why I don’t.

I explain that I write my to-do list the night before. And I star the item that I want to do first. And I block out from 8-9 am for that most important thing. But then I sit down to work at 8am and I answer email. Which is never the most important thing, but it is always the most fun, because a full in-box is like a bucket full of lottery tickets: You never know, but you always hope you’ll hit big.

She says that I should break down the starred task into smaller pieces and just ask myself to do the first, tiny piece at 8am.

This is good advice. Which is why this post got written today. I just wonder if I can keep it up. Or if I’ll have to call the coach again.

134 replies
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  1. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    We practice self discipline in a lot of areas in our life without even realizing it. Not drinking and driving, being faithful to our spouses, coming to work every morning. These may seem trivial but it takes a level of self discipline to accomplish these. You know there are people who can’t follow the three items that i’ve listed which puts the rest of us a step ahead. Now, like everything else, we want more of it and how do we get it. For some, it’s a coach; for others it’s a spouse or friend.

  2. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    Those two paragraphs of unpleasant things made laugh to myself this morning. Because I am a miserable human specimen? No, because we all have those thoughts and annoyances and those of us who wish we had more self-discipline may feel bad for even thinking that way. It is refreshing to see someone’s thoughts with that much honesty; a reminder that it is quite a challenge for anyone, this self-discipline stuff.

  3. christin
    christin says:

    “because a full inbox is like a bucket full of lottery tickets: You never know, but you always hope you'll hit big.”

    I always wondered why I found my email so exciting. this is exactly why. Thank you. (ha)

  4. James Schellman
    James Schellman says:

    Regarding self-discipline or prioritizing my day, I love this quote by author Robert J. McKain, “The reason most goals are not achieved is that we spend out time doing second things first.”

  5. Sheila Scarborough
    Sheila Scarborough says:

    Why didn’t I realize this before; we check email first “just in case something great’s in there.” We KNOW what awaits on the To Do List — work — so we want to spend some time with the (possibly) more pleasant unknown, even though it’s usually just more work.

    And OK, you get to be the person who coined “self-discipline setpoint.” Anyone ever tries to misuse it, I’ll beat them soundly with your byline. :)

    I’ll reset my setpoint just as soon as I take a quick look at my email….

  6. Sydney Lagier
    Sydney Lagier says:

    Here’s my prescription for your happiness. Stop telling yourself you have to do that most important item first. Will that really make you happy? Read your email first, that’s more fun. Having more fun leads to more happiness. Who cares whether you write your post at 8am or 10pm.

    I for one will read it as soon as it hits my screen as it is my absolute favorite read. I would be happier if you wrote 2 or 3 posts a day, but this is not about my happiness . . .

    There, are you happy now?

  7. Milena
    Milena says:

    Penelope –

    Far from being a career-limiting move, I think that calling people on their b*llsh*t is a wonderful trait. Oh yeah, but I’m not paying you. That aside. I think it should be mentioned that even self-discipline will only get you so far. Do the people of Darfur simply lack self-discipline? Did the people suffering under communism and worse for most of the 20th century just not “want freedom bad enough?” Will anyone provide a satisfactory answer to those kinds of questions? Or is positive psychology only applicable to inhabitants of industrialized, capitalist societies?

    The positive-psych movement tells people in short “dream it and you can acheive it” or worse “if you don’t get it you didn’t want it bad enough.” With no actual roadmap for success.

    I’m all about dreams, goal-setting, pursuit of happiness, but a lot of those books are pure crap. There are factors that limit people beyond what their wills can overcome. There is no shame in that, and it’s the rest of us who have the luxury of reading these stupid books and commenting on blogs that should do something about it. (Yeah, I’m including myself here.) Talk about self-discipline – there is an old idea that the surefire cure for melancholy is helping others, regularly, expecting nothing in return. It might not even be a postive experience, but it is a humbling one, and makes you stop feeling so sorry for yourself.

    Stop trying to be happy. Stay pissed off and do something about it.

  8. Alec
    Alec says:

    Hehe, very funny post.

    I have the same problem with email. I plan on just having a peek before doing real work, but than one email leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to one with links, which leads to more links …

    Argh. I would write a longer comment but I have mail waiting.

  9. Diana
    Diana says:

    I laughed out loud after reading the bit about your e-mail and thinking of it as a lottery tickets. I know what you mean! I have heard that you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the day because it is a distraction, but how can you not? Even though we complain about it, e-mail can be great! I’m still waiting on my big ticket win…

  10. klein
    klein says:

    And my prescription for your happiness is to get off the hamster wheel and start enjoying life. God, you spend so much time worrying about every little thing that you can’t enjoy the moment.

    I’m so glad that I don’t pressure myself so much any longer. Do I sacrifice in not achieving certain things, perhaps, but in the scheme of my life, what’s more important? The next rung on the career ladder, or enjoying my life!?

  11. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Penelope.

    I prefer the term ‘self discipline’ to the term ‘self control’. ‘Self control’ implies something innate, while ‘self discipline’ carries the connotation of something you can learn and improve on.

    But I agree it’s not easy. And it sounds like you have the same problem that I do – namely, addiction to the web and email (checking email and checking web stats for my sites is something I do fairly obsessively even though I know it’s wrong).

    I learnt a lot about self discipline through doing NaNoWriMo last year. Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is not easy and I cultivated a lot of tricks to see me through that prove useful in all sorts of other ways as well.

    But it’s definitely a work in progress.

  12. Simon
    Simon says:

    Practically everyone is in need of self discipline, especially when running a home business. Too often we get caught up with routine and mind numbing repetative tasks. However the thought “it is better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do” comes to mind.

  13. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Milena, I did indeed finish the novel. Or the first draft at least. My number one goal for 2008 is to finish editing it. Right now it feels like that’s the hard part but I’m taking myself on an Arvon Foundation course in April to give it a kick along.

  14. Scott Williamson
    Scott Williamson says:

    Great stuff! I think you’re spot on when it comes to checking email first thing. As much as I spout about not doing it first thing, the temptation to see whats there is often overwhelming.

    For self-discipline, let’s be honest, as adults whatever you have or don’t have when it comes to self-discipline isn’t likely to change all that much. Changing the set point is a much better solution than banging your head on the self-discipline wall hoping for improvement.

  15. Dave Younskevicius
    Dave Younskevicius says:

    Penelope, I read “The How of Happiness” solely from your recommendation here. It was even better than “Stumbling on Happiness”, which I also read because you recommended it. The book was fantastic, so thank you.

    I think of “The How of Happiness” as a sort of sequel to Dale Carnegie’s seminal self-help book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, in addition to being a sequel to “Stumbling on Happiness”. (It’s interesting that they both have “How” in the title…) I think it’s really the next step in being a happier and more likable person, which you sometimes talk about.

    Like you say, it’s hard to be happier. I scored a 5 on Sonja’s happiness test out of 7, which makes me slightly less happy than the average person. I’d agree with how I felt then, but since I read her book every day has been one of the happiest I have ever had.

    That might sound like hyperbole to you, but to me it’s real. “Revelation” is the best word I can use to describe my experience. This revelation is what gives you the self-discipline you’re talking about. From then on, it’s simply a matter of executing and reminding yourself.

    If you still struggle with self-discipline, I imagine it’s because you can’t see the benefits of it yet. Sonja’s book is basically showing you how to change from being a pessimist to an optimist. (Or if you’re already an optimist, how to be even more optimistic.)

    You may not need all that science to convince you, but I did. That’s why there’s so much emphasis on the data, presumably.

    The tone of your post is obviously pessimistic, so I don’t think you’ve bought in yet. Are you really trying the 1-4 strategies Sonja mentions? Are you committed? Her advice seems solid to me. I hope it can work for you too.

  16. Dr. Karen
    Dr. Karen says:

    One of my own personal goals this year is to improve my self-discipline (and I LOVE the idea of raising my self-discipline set-point! ;-)

    If I may make a different suggestion than your coach, however…I wouldn’t break down the first task more if it’s already manageable. Try a different time scoping — instead of making it the “first thing” when you already know you prefer to do the email check, make it something you do by x time (e.g., by 9am).

    I do think it’s a good idea to break down tasks that take longer than 15 minutes, though, so if your first task is to do a blog post — assign yourself to “write blog post for 15 minutes” and the expectation to get that done before 9am. For example, of course. Likely, once you start, you’ll carry on, but if not, it’s still more acheivable and your success will make you happy. ;-)

    Hope that helps something —

  17. Working Girl
    Working Girl says:

    Wow, there’s a lot of talk about happiness in the air nowadays. Did anyone see the WSJ’s review of “Against Happiness” last Friday? It’s another take on what has oddly become a controversial topic.

    So coincidentally, today, over at my Working Girl blog, I tried to define happiness (& success). It’s a fool’s errand, but I tried.

    Oh, and the whole don’t-check-your-email-in-the-morning thing? That’s ridiculous! There’s nothing wrong with checking your email in the morning.

  18. Marjie
    Marjie says:

    Good Lord, you are an exhausting person. Don’t believe all of your fans, this was not a fun or funny read, this was a column written by someone I’d avoid in real life. I’m just going to have to avoid the column instead. Enough already.

  19. Phil
    Phil says:

    Professor Martin E.P. Seligman is considered one of the founders of the positive psychology movements. When I went to college at Penn, he was the faculty master at our living/learning college house.

    He spread so much positive happiness around our dorm that his E.P. initials became known as enormous penis. Nasty, sullen, cloistered. A real S.O.B.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing. As my father used to say–don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  20. Kathy S
    Kathy S says:

    I got my self-discipline to get through Engineering while working at the same time via Martial Arts. Try sitting in a horse-stance for 10 minutes straight and your body will remember who’s the boss: you.

  21. Ken
    Ken says:

    And thus I quote Marjie:

    Good Lord, you are an exhausting person. Don't believe all of your fans, this was not a fun or funny read, this was a column written by someone I'd avoid in real life. I'm just going to have to avoid the column instead. Enough already.

    I found this post to be immensely fun to read, as did several others. There is but one dark cloud in this corner of the e-sky; if you can’t see it, you may want to track down and peer into a mirror.

    My guess is Penelope probably whispered an audible “thank you” when you wrote you’d not want to hang out with her; she sounds busy enough.

    Not that you’d actually MEET her somewhere other than an online forum (PENNY PENNY PENNY CAN WE IM TONIGHT PLZ?), of course, but it’s the principle.

  22. janya
    janya says:

    self-discipline is a rather unpleasant thing. I mean, things that we really enjoy doing (i.e. reading email first thing in the morning) get done early on without any kind of discipline. Self-discipline as a path to happiness seems like a very indirect and unpleasant route, if it’ll get us there at all.

  23. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    “Self-discipline as a path to happiness seems like a very indirect and unpleasant route, if it'll get us there at all.”

    Oh, it’s not always fun, but self-discipline leads to self-ownership, which I believe IS the route to happiness. Ask anyone who has trained for a triathlon and beaten their goal, who has completed a degree, raised a superb human being, or has achieved anything else in life through sucking it up and churning through the gruntwork. Of course it’s important to enjoy the moment, and to remember why you wanted to get in shape or get that degree or have kids in the first place. It doesn’t do you any good to pursue someone ELSE’s goals. But yeah, I think self-discipline is key to happiness in life, even if it doesn’t exactly get a gold star in the instant gratification category. For that, we have chocolate.

  24. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Have you read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini? It’s sold over a million copies, is currently ranked #266 in books on Amazon and has 4.5 stars from 234 reviews.

    Cialdini contends that there are 6 basic (non-economic) ways in which people can be persuaded to do something. One of them is the principle of “authority”, which is that we as humans tend to defer to authority figures. For a lot of people scientists and science in general are authority figures.

    If a book claims to be based on science (i.e. implying objective truth), like Lyubomirsky’s book, then people are more likely to be persuaded into believing what it says is true (a concept that Malcolm Gladwell exploits very successfully).

    Anyway, if you haven’t read Cialdini’s book I think you’d find it interesting. It contains one answer to your question of motivation which is to publicly commit, verbally or in writing, to a course of action. We humans love consistency and so will strive to be self-consistent.

  25. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Me: "So, are you happy?"
    Eastern friend: "I feel OK; I am grateful for who I am and with what I have."
    Western friend: "Compared to whom? Compared to what?"
    Hmmm –

    Many live life in a consciousness of duality…everything has polarities….good-bad, right-wrong, successful-unsuccessful, rich-poor, smart-dumb, beautiful-ugly, expensive-cheap, honor roll-no honor roll, soccer star-no soccer star, fat-thin, and on and on.

    At the end of the day,for me, True and Real Happiness,is a function of “work” (read: self discipline) and practices based on the notion that “Joy is within you.” Through “work” on limiting and self-defeating self images, beliefs, assumptions, preconceptions, thoughts and “our stories”, and through energy and body work, through the practice of presence, meditation and true Inquiry, and a number of other tools and modalities, we arrive at a place of “knowing”, a place where appreciation and joy and gratitude for where we are, right here, right now, even in the midst of a swamp, is just fine; it’s OK.

    For me, our Soul did not design the “positive psychology”, “positive thinking” “fake it til you make it” strategies or tactics that promise us happiness, positivity, wealth and success if we just keep positive and repeat simplistic affirmations, or engage in some other seemingly “positive” experience that creates the “appearance” of happiness, or a new “shift” into another realm of positivity. For me, this is manipulative…the (ego) mind working, the "science of happiness."

    The purpose of the discomfort, of the uncomfortable state or feeling, is an opportunity to grow our soul by going “through” it, not around it, over it, or under it. For me, the only way we can grow our soul, and experience true and real emotional and spiritual maturation, is by going into and through the “hole” of the unhappiness, i.e., the fear, sadness, lack, deficiency, anger, etc., and see what clarity we get by exploring it, going into it with curiosity, as an adventure, not by judging ourselves as bad or wrong for having the feeling state or emotion, and certainly not by “fixing” it, denying it, or changing our immediate experience.

    Our emotional journey is critical to our growth and development. Our emotions are an essential part of the communication system of and with our soul. It’s important from a growth perspective to be able to sense, feel and stay present to our emotions in our body without moving into our mind to “figure it out”, or move to another mental or emotional state, to be happy, happier and happiest. Unhappiness, is part of the continuum, part of the journey.

    Our Soul encourages us to face and accept our limitations, our downside, our unpleasant experiences as well as our gifts. It’s important that we embrace and live our life according to who we are, in the moment, as unpleasant as that might be. When we learn to see the unpleasant, the discomfort, the pain and the suffering in terms of this broader Soul’s perspective, we can also experience a sense of relief, strength, courage self love and compassion, as opposed to, “I (ego) don’t like this; I need to do something get away from it. “I need to "think happiness."

    The work of going inside, meditating, being mindful, practicing “presence” both in the quiet time and in the heat of everyday stresses and battles, the "unhappy places", allows one to take the plunge to their depth…to get at the heart of the misperceptions, misconceptions, and misunderstandings they have in their database we called a brain. These misperceptions, etc., cannot be explored and discovered, erased and transformed by a quick mental game of “thinking positive". For the vast majority, it’s almost impossible to “think oneself” into change and be different (happy?) on a consistent basis. Today, perhaps; tomorrow, maybe. Long-term, hardly a chance. It takes “work” and self-discipline to effect true change and transformation. The deeper one separates from one’s Essence, the more unlikely the real experience of true happiness.

  26. stevo
    stevo says:

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind (or actions) and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

  27. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Dear Penelope,

    Firstly (just carry on) to thine own self be true. You maintain your readership with your frank honesty and authenticity.

    I have embraced a philosophy of honest emotion i.e. if I feel unhappy then I embrace it and try to understand why and learn from it. It seems in the modern world many of us fear not being perceived as always happy. We can only embrace happiness if we embrace our unhappiness equally.

    As for self-discipline and self-help let’s be honest the best ways are choosing what works for you and if you have a coach having them help you develop the means to implement your own framework for this.

    Do you still play volleyball? In your book you write about that and I you sound as if it gave you both discipline and happiness. I am going back to practicing martial arts for the sense of inner peace and self-discipline it gave me.

    Anyway, once again I salute you for staying true to who you are and strong enough to write about it.

  28. Dale
    Dale says:


    Ever notice that we only need self-discipline to do the “positive” things we don’t like doing, or NOT to do the “negative” things we like doing.
    For example, if we were really to talk about me being happy, I’d be thrilled to be a sample tester for any and all chocolate / donut / sausage / edible undie / ice cream or liquor company (let’s see if anyone but me really reads these comments in detail:) that would employ me, but alas, the long term effects would be disastrous for my family and me. I guess it all really can be explained by the old defunct Utility theory of Econ.
    If the opportunity cost of my planned actions are more palatable than the actions I think I “must” be doing, then logically I have a hard time not doing those alternatives.
    So the question really becomes, will greater self-discipline make me happier or cause greater dissonance in my emotional state?
    You like eating 2 bagels every morning, but you also like being thin and muscular. Which do you like more? If you choose the short term pleasure of the bagels, then you are doing what truly makes you happy -unless you are emotionally out of sync for some reason. This is when other problems lead one to seek comfort in things like food or unwise and/or illicit liaisons.
    Roy Williams once wrote, “…the little things in your life add up to your life…” But sometimes they also help you hide from the bigger things in your life. I guess, if we were really honest with ourselves, faced up to what might be actually bothering us, and had the courage to tackle the seemingly insurmountable, in our lives, then we wouldn’t need self-discipline.

    Just my two cents worth.

  29. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    I read in a weight-loss book that discipline is doing what you WANT to do and not what you FEEL
    like doing.

    Also, the book said that after a while, what you want to do will become what you feel like doing.

    The book is “If I am So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight” by Brooke Castillo. It’s awesome.

  30. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    That self discipline or intrinsic motivation makes all the difference between those who achieve more, do more and are therefore happy making a difference to things that piss them off and those, who moan and complain and do nothing. May be moaning makes them happy, who knows?

    As for “"How can she be a happy person when she is such a nitpicker?"”, there are a few logical fallacies. Call me a nitpicker if you want to, but I can assure you I am not short of self-discipline or motivation, and you will not find me moaning about much in my life. I act to change things, I do not like!

    First of all you are equating her analytical bent of mind to nitpicking; she IS an academic and this detail orientation is a hygiene factor for her success. If it makes her happy, why does it bother you?

    Then you assume that that nitpicking people are not happy; nitpicking people are doing something about things that annoy them, ergo they CAN be happy, happier even than those who do not care enough.

    Thirdly on a literal note: have you ever picked nits from a child’s hair? It is immensely satisfying to know that the child won’t go around scratching his/ her head any more. That is immensely gratifying, some may say ‘happy-making’. You have children, you will some time or the other have to pick nits. Challenge your own statement then in a very literal light, ex post, and see what you think.

  31. Carol
    Carol says:

    Haha hillarious post – loved it.

    This is why I threw away the positive parenting book I once made the mistake of buying – boy did that book make me feel inadequate. After reading it I went home and yelled at my kids!

  32. kevin
    kevin says:

    Many of the commenters on this post seem to be confusing positive psychology with self-help. Positive psychology is a field of research within experimental psychology devoted to investigating the factors that contribute to subjective well-being (aka happiness).

    The How of Happiness is an excellent overview of the field, though I agree it’s a little light on the details of how to successfully create new habits. On the other hand, I disagree that “doing any of it requires tons of self-discipline.” Most of the suggestions are pretty simple and easy to implement. It takes just a couple minutes a day, for example, to begin a gratitude journal, which is one of the most effective ways currently known to increase your happiness.

    If you’re having trouble implementing one strategy, try another one. There are plenty of them in the book to choose from. As I begin a new strategy, I add it as a daily item on my ToDo list until I’m able to turn it into an automatic habit. But Lyubomirsky also goes over the components of successful goal achievement. Did you go through the steps for the strategies you tried to implement?

  33. michael cardus
    michael cardus says:

    self-discipline respective of those around you – if you hang around several undisciplined slobs anything you do that is disciplined makes you look like a superstar.
    Great post – the email inbox like a lottery ticket! Great

  34. Michael
    Michael says:

    All kinds of thoughts run through me. Today I send in the first 2 chapters for my doctoral dissertation on Spiritual Disciplines. They are not easy to do, to be dedicated and follow them, too many authors say “simply” do them or “simply yield”. It is not that simple.

    Secondly, while I have never read that book on happiness, I equate happiness with something I do, it comes from external means; while joy is something which comes from within. And a critical author cannot take away my joy, but can take away my happiness.

    Just some thoughts. Enjoy the bagel!! Where I live, there are no good places for bagels, so have one for me.


  35. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    @ Michael:

    “They are not easy to do, to be dedicated and follow them, too many authors say "simply" do them or "simply yield". It is not that simple.”

    I do not know your background but being an MBA, I was steeped in practice of what we call Some How In Time system of managing work (fashioned after Japanese JIT of inventory management). You can see what the acronym spells for our preferred way of working.

    I finished and submitted my PhD in October, and the last 11 weeks were crucial to finishing them. That said all the time I spent on the research, it really was deeply interesting and engaging. Which is why writing it should be simple. But when floundering in too much data, it becomes anything but simple.

    That said the happiness I got from it all was immense. I have a whole book case worth of books and materials now with which I feel a deep connection and am able to read my thesis for fun (serious!) sometimes. Viva soon – so we shall see how long the happiness lasts but do keep at it and have fun :-)

  36. Michael
    Michael says:

    Shefaly –

    I too, have received a great deal of joy and a deepening of my life through the work. I had never been so disciplined as I have been these past months in reading, writing and preparing. It tells me I can do it. But should willpower be the basis of the disciplines, or does it go deeper, to a spiritual level, which alas, makes it easier?

    “so we shall see how long the happiness lasts but do keep at it and have fun” Maybe that is the crux of the issue, how long will our happiness last? The more we engage in fun and joy-filled activities, and celebrate, the longer it lasts, because we come at life with openness and expectancy.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  37. Eduardo Di Lascio
    Eduardo Di Lascio says:

    There is no happiness, only happy moments, and that is what we need to treasure and store in our minds and hearts.
    Love the blog,can’t have enough of it.

  38. Dale
    Dale says:


    Good point, I agree with your statement about there only being happy moments.
    Validation of your theory can be seen in the fact that when we look back at our lives while going through a crisis period, we often think about how happy we were. At the time, we did not necessarily see our selves as happy.
    I guess it has alot to do with our relative situation and the volume and “weightiness” of the good times exceeding the bad times.


  39. Jo
    Jo says:

    @Eduardo @Dale

    Sometimes I am happy during a crisis (though you shouldn’t show it) and unhappy when everything is going smoothly!

    For me happiness is to do with being engaged – having a sense of meaning because of who I am with with. So a long distance flight is gross if the other passengers behavior is alienating (someone kicking your seat or yelling drunkenly to an audience of 1) and it is wonderful if there is some sense of common connection (people helping each other out with some criterion of decency – giving a stretch of seats to someone flying with several hops, for example).

    Would meditation help on a long haul flight that is dreadful? Better than killing the passenger kicking me but in truth, if you can’t move seats, best just to chill. Time goes no faster or slower. The flight will be over when it is over. Never look at the automated map! Put your watch away. You have no control. Chill!

    Equally, moping because you have to take a long haul flight won’t make it better. Best to help the person with five kids, give up your nice seat to someone who needs it more and find out why your neighbour is putting him or herself through the misery. It passes the time and lots of people have lots of interesting stories. I get half my anecdotes for 101 lectures off my neighbours on planes. They usually get a kick out of knowing they will be indirectly education 1000 Gen Y at the other end of the world!

    Should get back to work! And I put up a picture from on another blog for everyone having a bad day! http://scotchcart.wordpress.com.

    It’s from Zimbabwe. I couldn’t resist.

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