How much value do you place on happiness?

Finding Your Happy with the 16 Guidelines by Wendy Ridley, Senior Facilitator for the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom.

How much value do you place on happiness?

Many of us believe that the purpose of life is to seek happiness.  We work hard to get the right partner, job, house, car, body, and children so that we will be happy.

How many times do you find yourself saying (out loud or internally) “if only I had more-more money/more beauty/more power/more of everything then I’d be happy,”? And feeling that the happiness would last – and become greater the more you had?

But after a basic amount, will having greater wealth, success, or sensual pleasure actually mean we experience greater happiness?

Are people who have £60 billion proportionally happier if they have £70 billion?

If we eat 5 chocolate bars are we happier than if we ate one and shared the rest? (Some of us may have personally experimented with this theory over Christmas.)

Are stimulus driven pleasures true sources of happiness – or just catalysts? Are people who achieve great wealth and fame happy – or ultimately disappointed?

And before you go out and gamble all your earnings on a lottery ticket, consider this. Research on the ‘set point of happiness’ found that lottery winners were not significantly happier longer term than those who had been paralysed in an accident. We get accustomed to any new situation – however wonderful or destructive – and inevitably return to our own general set point of happiness.

So – how do you find your happy?

Not entirely sure? Think you might need some help? We can do that, through a wonderful tool called 16 Guidelines (16G).

Through in-depth exploration of How We Think, How We Act, How we Relate To Others and How We Find Meaning the 16 Guidelines help us to understand clearly what kind of happiness to put energy into so we don’t misunderstand the true source of happiness.

We discuss Socrates two kinds of happiness – hedonic pleasure (derived from what we can get from the world, similar to a hunter- gatherer approach) and eudaimonia – genuine happiness (derived from what we bring to the world, similar to a cultivator approach).

There is the happiness of ownership, of freedom from debt, of a good conversation, of seeing your children healthy, of a loving partnership, of a good meal.  But when our happiness is based on attachment, on not understanding impermanence and interdependence – it is hedonic and ephemeral. We need the hedonic pleasure of sufficient food, friendship, accommodation, health care, education only in support of eudaimonia.

Albert Einstein said: “Well-being and happiness never appeared to me as an absolute aim. I am even inclined to compare such moral aims to the ambitions of a pig.”

Einstein may have been a bit harsh (for a start, perhaps that’s a very valid ambition for a pig…) but he has a point. Ultimately, our own mind is the door for happiness and fulfilment in life. But we are addicted to doing, to stimulus, to rumination and to dulling the mind instead of using its full potential.

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that one of the four neural circuits of well being is dedicated to our ability to focus the mind. The skill of focusing can be developed by mindfulness meditation which is an integral part of the 16G.

Exploring the 16G leads to understanding that genuine happiness is well-being arising in our mind from a clear conscience, contentment and insight. It is cultivated through ethics, non-violence, mental balance, and wisdom rooted in reality. Through utilising specific skills taught in 16G courses we cultivate inner qualities which can flourish into eudaimonia.

16G courses explore how the way to happiness is through finding meaning. Commitment to an ideal leads to aspiration which leads to perseverance which results in the goal and experiences of genuine well being.

Wisdom traditions throughout the world all say- and now science is showing – that the more caring we are the happier we are….so to be happier – do some good.

Want to know more about 16G? Check out the 16 Guidelines on the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom’s website HERE.

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