Happiness For Dummies
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Happiness comes from a balanced mix of what you have to do and what you want to do. In some Chinese restaurants, you can still order family style — choosing some items from Column A and others from Column B. Column A has the fancier, higher-priced dishes, and Column B has less costly but still tasty treats. It’s the combination of A and B that made the meal unique and memorable.

That’s the way life is, too. Some of your daily experiences are no doubt significant (being told you got a raise or completing a project on time) while other are less so (a stranger letting you go ahead of her in the checkout line at the grocery store). But they’re all part of what makes your day positive — they’re stepping stones to achieving happiness.

Column A pursuits

What’s on your agenda today? What are the have-to’s? You have to do this; you have to do that. You have to go here; you have to go there. You have to see him; you have to see her. These are the things you consider essential to your social and economic survival. Most likely, they include some combination of the following:

  • Going to the grocery store

  • Picking up the dry cleaning

  • Straightening up the house

  • Paying bills

  • Getting the car serviced

  • Making a deposit at the bank

  • Getting a haircut

  • Feeding the dog

  • Going to work

  • Supervising work being done on your home

  • Visiting a friend or family member in the hospital

  • Getting your flu shot

  • Taking your child to school

  • Picking your child up from school

  • Mowing the lawn

The more things you check off the list, the better you feel at the end of the day. You’ve met the basic necessities of everyday life. You’re surviving, but are you thriving? Not unless your day also includes some Column B pursuits.

Look over the list of Column A pursuits and check those that are on your to-do list today — and add any others that you have to do. This gives you a picture of just how structured your day is and what that structure looks like. Do you like what you see?

Column B pursuits

Think of Column B pursuits as your hidden agenda. Column B is all about want-to’s: You want to do that; you want to go there; you want to see her. Think of this as the icing on the cake. Of course, you can live life without them, but they sure make life a lot sweeter!

Consider the following examples:

  • Sitting quietly and reading the paper before you start your day

  • Filling up the bird-feeder so you can enjoy the comings and goings of your feathered friends

  • Taking a leisurely walk around the block

  • Meeting a friend for lunch

  • Watching children at play

  • Having a quiet moment of prayer

  • Spending some quality time with your child after school

  • Reading the comics

  • Checking out a new clothing store

  • Chatting with your next-door neighbor at the mailbox

  • Taking a catnap

These are the little things that spice up your day. Use them to fill in the cracks between Column A pursuits — for example, meeting a friend for lunch in between picking up the dry cleaning and having the tires rotated.

How many Column B–type things did you do today? Chances are you had fewer Column B experiences than ones that fall under Column A. If your life is full of Column A pursuits and short on Column B, restructure your day to make it look more like a Chinese menu — with choices from both columns.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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