By Troy Headrick
While prepping myself to write this, I began to think of analogies. Can happiness be cultivated in the same way a farmer prepares for a good harvest? Think about it; a bumper crop doesn’t just happen by accident. Of course, there are things (like weather) that are beyond the farmer’s control. Even so, he has much power to affect the outcome of his efforts.
For example, if he studies agriculture, he can learn what sorts of crops grow best where he lives. He can find out the right times to plant and how much water and fertilizer to use. If he learns and uses his learning wisely, he can know the most optimal time to reap what he has sown and what methods work best to get the food out of the field and to the consumer. In other words, the farmer has within his power the ability to create the conditions that make it more likely he’s going to have a productive growing season.
We sometimes think that happiness just happens “to” us, and we are right to see things this way. There are instances when we can experience it without any sort of effort. In the first piece I wrote on this subject, I described such an evening. I didn’t start out that night hoping or trying to be happy. Happiness just happened, rather unexpectedly, for a few different reasons, some of which I wrote about in that blog and the one that followed it.
I’d like to think more about intentionality in this piece. The successful farmer is very intentional in the way he approaches farming—he doesn’t just blunder into a good crop. Can people approach happiness in this way too? Can we very deliberately create the conditions that make it more likely we’ll experience happiness (or blissfulness or peacefulness or whatever word you want to use to capture the essence of this wonderful feeling)?
To answer this question, I thought about happy times I’d had in the recent past. I wanted to see if they had anything in common, if I could draw any insights from those moments that could be used to form a hypothesis. Here’s what I noticed.
In almost every instance, at least one of the following things was true:
- I was where I most wanted to be
- I was with the person or people I most wanted to be with
- I was doing what I most wanted to do at the time
The ideal conditions for experiencing happiness would be to have all three of these things present. If such a scenario occurs, a near perfect context has been created. Such a context makes it far more likely that a person can experience pleasure or happiness because the conditions are favorable. Conversely, it’s harder (but not impossible) to have a good time or be happy if these conditions are not met or present.
I am playing with my new where/who/what theory of happiness. Can I use it to make short-term and long-term plans? It’s certainly worth thinking about.
What do you think of my theory? I look forward to your insights, words of wisdom, and critiques. Thanks for reading!
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.
If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.