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What is happiness? What is joy? Is there a difference between the two? Ask yourself first, then ask someone you know well and see if you and they differ.Resources to consider:


So, what’s new about happiness? There are a host of books on the subject and each year a new list comes out. I’m presently reading Cassie Holmes book, Happier Hour. In the past year I’ve read The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway and Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

Galloway’s book is a cryptic, loosely organized book with a host of pithy suggestions like, get the small stuff right, if you’re young, get to a city, balance is a myth, Steve Jobs was an a..s and, don’t follow your passion.

Gilbert’s book is filled with humor and science. He offers insight into why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.

Seems like there is no end to the way happiness can be delivered. Too bad it’s so fleeting! In part that’s what my upcoming workshop “Deliberate Happiness” is about. Can you be deliberately happy? My take on the matter is a definite… yes!

What is Deliberate Happiness?

Deliberate Happiness comes from the concept of deliberate practice. Used by musicians, athletes and dedicated self-improvement aficionados, the idea is to establish a goal, set up a routine for practicing what your eventual outcome will be, and then deconstruct the steps toward the goal so you can begin with a challenging, but not overwhelming starting point. You want something that will challenge you, engage your interest while all the time allowing you to improve your performance. 

Let’s say you want to improve your performance on the piano. Decide which piece you would like to accomplish playing, separate out the various parts of the composition and set to practice the parts. Use each part to build towards your proficiency in playing the entire piece you have chosen. Give yourself a deadline within which to accomplish your goal. 

Let’s say you want to learn a language. Set up a goal of a conversation you would like to have, like ordering a meal, or exchanging ideas about a topic you want to talk about. Practice the various words, sentences, and paragraphs. Establish a date for your achievement, and then set intermediate reachable goals. To add a sense of mastery, tape your conversation with yourself so you can measure your success.

Deliberate Happiness is similar. Decide what would give you a state of happiness. Set up some activities that you can do for yourself, without too much expense and where travel is not mandatory, then list the activities. Set about doing one or more of the activities on a routine basis. Does walking in the woods offer you a sense of happiness, put it on the schedule. Set a short walk and if it pleases you increase the distance, speed and frequency. Change the locations so you don’t get bored. Take in the sites, name the trees, and take pictures.  Does putting together puzzles or doing word games work for you. Put them on the schedule. Include more challenging games or give yourself a time budget if it helps keep you interested and ultimately realize your goal. 

Journaling what you’ve learned about yourself after each happiness opportunity would be a bonus as it could give you insight about you!

Feeling like an empty drum?

Allison, a fictional name but a real person, was someone others saw as having everything to feel happy about. But if truth were told, she described herself “like an empty drum.” She has a loving husband. She has healthy children who called her while out of town, not as frequently as she would have liked, but often enough so she didn’t worry. Her weight was under control, finally! But something was amiss. She was saddened by world events as seen on the endless news programs. She was troubled by the reports of mass shootings. At lunch, with a friend, she teared up and unexpectedly said she wanted to cry. She sought out my help as she was worried about her downward slide. She described herself as lonely and unable to fill her emotional tank. We talked. She cried. I teared up. And I asked her when it all began? She said, it started when she felt she was not in control of her feelings. She described it as a slow internal erosion. She confided to me, she felt like an imposter. She would put on a smiley face, telling others she was feeling great, all the while she was actually drowning in sad feelings. We talked about the self-talk, chatter, or negative thoughts she was telling herself. Sometimes the thoughts were only a trickle but at other times they came in a torrent and overwhelmed her. We talked about little steps. Then she tried some of the suggestions we produced together, which I thought would help. She struggled. But she was determined. She was uplifted by her small successes. She came to realize the same mechanism of small steps that got her feeling down could be the way out of her dilemma. Small deliberate premeditated steps turned out to be the best way to get her out of her funk! My response… EUREKA! We talked through how she could continue to feel inner happiness and neutralize invasive sad thoughts all …ON DEMAND, with the small steps she used through her Deliberate Happiness program! 

Allison is a fitting example. She is someone who neglected herself. She is someone who has overlooked what brings happiness to her own life while simultaneously watching out for family and taking care of others. 

What’s your style? To ignore? To ruminate? To procrastinate?

How about you? How do you respond when something goes wrong? Do you dwell on it? Ignore it? Procrastinate? Move along and say you’ll get to it later? Some of these work, for a while, but like Allison, they can be erosive over time if left unchecked. 

Deliberate Happiness is a self-paced routine that helps to fill one’s emotional tank while simultaneously dealing with common everyday obligations and routine as well as extraordinary stressors.

Pride and regret

Cassie Holmes in her book, Happier Hour, writes about what the research on happiness has to say. She talked about The Harvard Study. This study of MBA graduates has been going on for seventy five years. When the group of men were surveyed (the study did not originally interview women) they found that having a career and family ranked equally high with setting one’s own path as the most prideful (happiest) times in their lives. What were their most regrettable times? Not spending enough time with family and friends, followed by missing an educational opportunity, and failing to act. It became obvious that unhappy times were characterized by the things they didn’t do when they had the opportunity to make a difference.  

Holmes makes the point that “Not every hour in our lives will be or needs to be happy.” She emphasizes “the extent to which you evaluate your life as satisfying and meaningful depends not only on what you actually choose to do but what you choose to focus on.”

2022 Happiness Survey

Adam McCann in a February 2022 Forbes magazine article commented that “happiness comes from a combination of internal and external factors.” He goes on to say, “ we can influence it somewhat by approaching situations positively or choosing to spend time with people we love, doing activities we enjoy.” It’s harder to be happy he says with “COVID-19 as one of the biggest stressors and rampant inflation as a threat to our mental (and fiscal) health. He cites the American Psychiatric Association Poll that eight seven percent of Americans are anxious or very anxious about inflation.”

The Forbs’ poll on the 2022 “state of happiness” ranks all fifty states in order of their happiness quotient. How does your home state rank? Ohio ranks thirty eighth overall. 

Hawaii ranks first when it comes to overall happiness, seventeenth when it comes to how its residents view their work setting, and seventh when it comes to how its residents view their  community and physical environment.

West Virginia ranks fiftieth overall. Kentucky ranks forty seventh overall. Michigan ranks thirty ninth overall. Illinois ranks eighth overall and New York ranks twenty third overall. 

Do any of these quotients surprise you? The happiness quotient for the survey was based on a number of items. Some of the items included how many people described themselves in each state as depressed (which may not be the actual opposite of happiness), if they thought they were getting adequate sleep, the amount of time it took to get to work, their sense of career wellbeing, their sense of emotional and physical wellbeing, their sports participation rate, life expectancy and suicide rates, if they had food insecurity, the number of hours they worked, the number of households earning above seventy five thousand dollars,  underemployment, job security, job satisfaction, volunteer rate, ideal weather (no wonder Hawaii ranked so high), and average leisure time, amongst other topics. 

Happiness is a multi-faceted and complicated state. To increase your personal happiness quotient, focus on choices that that have a positive meaning in your life, connect with family and friends, be deliberate in your choices. Carpe Diem! 


Be well. Stay safe.

Thanks for reading the column. Please go to the AI website ( and post a comment. 

Questions? Suggestions? Send me an email at Be well. See you here next month. 


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