After 20 years and thousands of studies positive psychologists have uncovered the ingredients that make people happy. Martin Seligman summarizes the key components of happiness in Flourish. There are 5 factors he identifies as characteristic of people who are people “very happy”:
- Positive emotions – they make a special effort to create feelings of love, silliness, amazement, appreciation, curiosity, joy, hope, inspiration, pride and peacefulness.
- Engagement – they use their strengths as part of a high-functioning team.
- Meaning – they are involved in a project that’s making the world a better place.
- Relationships – they generate 3 positive interactions for every negative encounter.
- Accomplishments – they take a small step toward their goals every day.
Vibrantly happy individuals have learned how to be in love with life. They’ve broken free of the trance induced by rushing through life, distracted by what’s urgent and missing what’s important.
These folks have come to realize that happiness isn’t derived from what you have or what you do. What’s valuable to them centers around making a difference in the world and being involved in loving relationships. People who flourish are happy in relationships because they feel secure with their romantic partner. In fact, their love constantly grows stronger as they learn how to find mutually satisfying solutions to the issues that arise in their relationships.
Happy parents teach their children to have successful loving relationships by empathizing with their feelings, encouraging them to take action to transform their negative emotions into positive ones, and reinforcing their efforts to move from problems to satisfying solutions.
Unfortunately, we all didn’t have parents who taught us how to manage our emotions in this way, and consequently we are not very good at identifying our feelings, soothing ourselves, and thinking of proactive strategies for producing a positive life.
Fortunately, the new science of success and satisfaction has found that you can learn at any age how to be happier. Positive psychology researcher Suzanne Ouellette Kobasa has discovered that one of the key ingredients of happiness is hardiness, which she defines as “a set of beliefs about oneself, the world, and how they interact. It takes shape as a sense of personal commitment to what you are doing, a sense of control over your life, and a feeling of challenge.” These elements are referred to as the three C’s: being committed, controlled, and challenged.
Commitment can best be summed up by Admiral Jim Stockdale: “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties; and at the same time confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” Start building your commitment by writing down what your life looks like when you’re experiencing a high level of authentic happiness. Then commit to doing something every day to recreate those experiences.
Hardiness requires that you remain in control. Having control means being aware of your negative emotions so that you don’t stay stuck in them for long. The path of happy people winds through hell at times, but they don’t get stuck there. Instead, they move on so they can once again savor positive moments, letting go of the pain of the past and fears of the future. Create your hardiness plan for recovering from setbacks by writing about how you can stay optimistic that you’ll ultimately prevail when facing problems. lp.
The final trait of hardy people is that they see life as a challenge. In fact, people who become more positive as they age understand that their strengths could only have been forged in the hot fires of the hell they’ve endured. And they have developed supportive relationships with people who’ll be there to help them through tough times.
People who develop hardiness learn to suspend their emotions when responding to a challenge. They master the art of being in flow, that state in which they are zestfully engaged in using the personal and interpersonal strengths to work through the catastrophes of life by remaining passionate about the possibilities for success.
To complete your hardiness plan, write down the strengths that you have used to be successful in the past by recalling a proud accomplishment. What personal qualities enabled your success? How did you forge alliances with other people? How can you use your top traits to help you succeed now?
Whatever challenges you’re facing, you can use the 3 C’s to become a hardier person. As Harvard psychologist Rosabeth Moss Kanter says, “The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems.”