The skill of happiness and a change in plans

When I started making notes for today’s post this morning, I made a list of things that felt important to me to be happy. I’m not even sure how to characterize the items in this list. I know it’s not complete, it’s not prioritized, and it may be redundant. That doesn’t seem important now—it’s a work in progress. Here’s my list in the order it came out of my head:

  • Sense of purpose
  • Internal/external consistency of life story
  • Productivity
  • Doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done
  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Community
  • Accountability

That list was intended to be the start of a first draft of a reasonably well thought out post on treating happiness as a skill that can be developed.

This evening as I was preparing to write, I was chatting with a friend and he mentioned how he had been listening to an audio book* today and something that resonated with him was a discussion of the importance of a “ladder of values.” Naturally, I launched into what may have felt like a cross examination and demanded he tell me more. Here’s what I learned:

“Our minds are designed for strategic thinking. To avoid being drawn into the ‘tactical hell’ of petty drama, asserting your ego, proving you are right, and constantly reacting to the moves of other people, you must back out of these battles, create detachment and perspective, and get your ego to calm down.

Remind yourself that winning an argument or proving your point really gets you nowhere in the long run.

Win through your actions, not your words. Think about your long-term goals. Create a ladder of values and priorities in your life, reminding yourself of what really matters to you.

More often than not, you will realize that certain battles are not worth it in the end. They are a waste of energy and time, which should be high priority values.

It is always best to walk away from a circular battle. Your energy and spirit are important considerations.”


That resonates with me, too. Also, it totally derailed my plan for my reasonably well thought out post on “happiness as a skill.” Which is fine. The topic of tomorrow’s writing can be my reasonably well thought out ladder of values. I think I have a decent start on that.

*The book was The Laws of Human Nature, by Robert Greene. Obviously, it’s on its way to me as I type…

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