A great cup of French roast coffee. Decorating Christmas cookies with my daughters just before donning our matching pajamas. Listening to the waves crash on the shores of Cape Cod while walking barefoot along the white dunes. Ahh ... my heart beats with joy!
But I bet your list of pleasures looks completely different from mine. For instance, experiencing a Mud Run, spelunking in deep dark caves, and having a favored pet snake would never make my list but I know people who find great satisfaction and felicity in them.
So happiness may mean different things to different people but generally we know it is something good and we all tend to want it. In fact, I've dedicated a large majority of my adult life cultivating happiness - for myself and the collective.
What is Happiness?
Philosophers make a clear distinction between different types of happiness. Hedonism is essentially a construct of pleasure while eudaimonia equates happiness with a life well lived. Though I savor those moments mentioned above (the first list, not the second!), they are too fleeting for me to call perfect. I much more value the long-lasting pulse of living a life with meaning and purpose. And quite honestly, that frequently flies in the face of pleasure.
Aligning My Life with My Values
So here's a list of a different kind - one based upon my abiding happiness.
Raising daughters - teaching values and life lessons that will serve them well as they make their own way in this world. This involved changing diapers, setting clear boundaries, skimping on "wants" to address their needs, and stepping back so they could experience the consequences of their decisions.
Being present - caring for my parents through their respective health issues and, most significantly, at the end of their lives. This involved long drives from Vermont to Massachusetts on a frequent basis; holding hands when my Mom no longer remember my name and when my Dad's prognosis was ominous; and saying goodbye one last time to my stalwart father and to my mother for several years through her fog of Alzheimer's.
Circumambulating the country - investigating the meaning of life as part of a listening project. This included climbing mountains, sliding down cliffs, camping through freezing nights, and, on occasion, facing the prospect of death.
But here's the thing - I also reaped much happiness in the choices I made. I raised daughters who I am immensely proud of, admire, and love to the moon and back. I connected with my parents in whole new ways, getting to know my Dad as the unique and loving man he was beyond his role as a father and sharing in my mother's newfound joy as her disease unveiled her true nature. Such a sacred time! And, then there's the life-changing results of my walk that became a pilgrimage of my soul.
When I walk my talk, I can hold my head high, share my heart openly, and be ever present to the shifting dunes of time and space. For me, happiness is not one thing. It is not a thing at all! It is much more how I am as revealed in the choices I make every moment of every beautiful and promising day. When I am true to me, I live in perfect happiness.