Deep, Happy Thoughts From The Drop-Off Lane

This morning, as we waited in the drop-off lane at middle school, my youngest daughter and I had an awesome conversation about two different types of happiness. Here is the simple breakdown as I presented it to her.

  • Type one: hedonic happiness comes from simple, often fleeting joys like sleeping in or eating a slice of cake. 
  • Type two: eudaimonic happiness comes from things that require more effort, like finishing a marathon or learning to knit a sweater

Both are important. 

We have to embrace the simple pleasures of life while also pursuing those bigger joys that fill us up on a deeper level.

It was super-fun to reflect on the activities I engage in that bring me eudaimonic happiness and listen to my daughter come up with activities she could do to ignite that kind of happiness in her. She realized that finishing a cross country race was one of those deeper joys. She doesn’t love running long distances, but she feels so proud when she’s done it. She pointed out that writing books is one of my eudaimonic happiness triggers. She sees me bleary-eyed each morning, chugging down the coffee while I fight to meet a book deadline long after everyone else has gone to bed, but she also sees the big reward at the end – that deep, almost indescribable personal satisfaction that comes with the finish.

Yes, I am a total happiness nerd!

But I don’t just want to put on a happy face. Although I encourage my children to find the bright spot in their days and try to live in a positive mindset myself, I know that sometimes we’re just not happy, and that’s okay. I mean, life is inherently hard. I want us to feel the feels – all of them – and lean toward happiness authentically.

We can grab onto happiness with a slice of cake or an extra hour of sleep (do these things, you deserve the simple pleasures of life), but that will only fill our joy bucket so far. Our deeper happiness comes from the bigger things – the things that required a bit more grit to achieve. Do those things too. Because really, when you do, it’s more than just a flash of happiness – it’s pride in yourself, it’s living with a mindset of determination, it’s inspiring others, and, on a spiritual level, it’s what carries us onward toward our soul’s purpose. We were meant to do big things! So run a race, write a book, climb a freakin’ mountain! Whatever it is that brings you the big joy – do it!

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