What Is Your Happiness Formula?
I am not normally an impatient person, but that morning my fuse was short, if not completely blown. I couldn't fix my mood with mental gymnastics or ignore it—clearly that had not been working.
Then, it occurred to me: It had been five days since my last bout of vigorous exercise. My eyes darted from my clock, to my to-do list, to my email in-box. I didn't exactly feel like I had the time for a short run, but I certainly didn't have the time for hair-trigger frustration and a sour mood the rest of the day either. Everything on my list could wait the 20 minutes it would take to get some endorphins flowing. I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door. Sure enough, after a run and a cup of coffee, my mood and productivity bounced back.
One of the keys to being agile in life is knowing how to quickly find your way back to equilibrium. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pivot from a place of anxiety or unhappiness. Your ability to navigate change will be severely hampered if you are weighed down by people, habits, an environment or activities that drain you.
Your happiness formula is the unique mix of environmental factors and activities that are most likely to invigorate you and reset your energy batteries when they are running low. When you search for a place to stay on Airbnb, you narrow down the choices with criteria such as price, location, size and amenities. Your dream room might be someone else's nightmare. Think about your happiness formula elements as life filters, the search criteria that help clarify your priorities and rules of thumb for making you most fulfilled in a given day or week.
Think of your happiness formula on a micro level—day-to-day routines and 5-to-20-minute habits—and on a macro level of bigger choices, like where to live and work. What micro and macro elements are most important to build into your life?
For example, your ideal setup might contain a mix and match of the following:
Happiness Formula Elements
3 Steps for Finding Your Happiness Formula
1. Reflect your current morning and evening rituals. How did the past few days go? Rate how you feel about your overall balance of activities on a scale of 1 to 10. What's working best in your life at the moment? What's missing? What would a 10 look like?
2. Aim for quantity as you fill in your chart. Don't censor yourself; just go with whatever comes to mind. Make a list of three to five activities that energize you most for each section. What daily activities and morning routines are must-haves for your happiness formula? What macro lifestyle factors are most important? For both categories, note what you are doing well and what you may be missing. (To get your creative juices flowing further, fill out this more in-depth Ideal Day Mad Lib.)
3. Express your happiness formula as an equation by identifying elements across the three M's:
- Must-haves: Choose three items from the lists above that most energize you (and that help save your sanity in stressful times).
- Multiplier/s: Choose one or more booster elements that supercharge your day or week.
- Minuses: Choose one or more elements to subtract that are no longer serving you: habits, fears, mind-sets or shoulds that you want to let go of.
These elements combined look something like this:
[(Ritual 1 + Ritual 2 + Ritual 3) x Booster] – Barrier/s to Drop = Daily Happiness
Personalize your formula until it fits. The goal is to capture your most critical foundational elements. You can even give it a fun name or label, the result on the other side of the equal sign, that serves as a shortcut for how you want to feel when enacting these routines.
For example, I have one to two hours of windup rituals before I sit down at the computer. I meditate, journal and then read a nonfiction "brain food" book with tea. After that, I make a list (or double-check the one from the previous day) of what top three strategic and creative tasks are most important to complete in my morning sprint before meetings start. By the time I sit down for work, I am focused and ready.
Following this ideal day structure, my happiness formula is:
(Reading + Meditation + Journaling) x Exercise (Yoga, Pilates or Walk-and-Talk with a Friend) + (Creative Deep Work) — (Email Anxiety) = Morning Ninja
Here's another example from author Bill Connolly.
His formula is:
(Creating) + (Friends and Family) + (Traveling) — (Being Scared) = Meaning Over Money
And from painter Michael Karsouny, whose formula is written in sets of three:
(Meditation + Reading Art Books + Drawing) x (Gym + Wake Up Early + Time with Partner) — (Junk Food + Toxic People + Procrastination) = Spiritual Warrior
Your happiness formula doesn't have to be set in stone. Think about it as recipes—pick three ingredients at a time for an energizing morning or relaxing evening routine—and keep tweaking until you find a few standbys that consistently activate your best self.
After you've crafted your happiness formula, remember: Happiness—the way we traditionally describe and seek it—is elusive, like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. We chase and chase, never quite catching the peace we seek, by the very nature of being in a mode of pursuit. The more we chase happiness, the more it escapes us. So don't fret. Trust your formula and enjoy creating a routine out of what makes your heart sing. You will be most fulfilled by pursuing meaning, growth, impact and connection directly, thereby letting a calm, purpose-filled happiness emerge as a natural byproduct.
This adapted excerpt was taken from Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, by Jenny Blake. Find out more about Blake at PivotMethod.com.