Is it really as Straight-Forward and
Clear as it seems?
What does it mean to measure progress? Well, part of that answer lies in what goal is to be achieved.
Measuring progress is a regular occurrence in Western society today. For example, Western style businesses are rapidly increasing their time and money on it. The incentive for them is to increase productivity while decreasing expenses.
But what about individuals? What will our incentives be for progress on a personal level? How can we measure progress on a personal level? Will the goal be something as apparently simple to measure as weight loss? Or will the goal be less tangible such as, “What does happiness mean to me and how do I achieve it?”
Different Ways of Measurement
Let’s look at the example weight loss goal first. Let’s say the goal is, “Six months from now, I will weigh thirty pounds less and keep it off.” The benefits might include increased self-esteem and better health. Measuring progress could be done seeing improving self-confidence with personal interactions, reducing one’s weight and lowering blood pressure over time. The advantage of taking this approach puts the control over weight loss exactly where it should be, with the person losing the weight.
But what if there is a different motivation for weight loss? Instead of health or self-esteem, what if the goal for losing weight is instead, “I want to make a better impression on him, or her, or them?” Progress would be measured quite differently in this case. The measurement would instead be what someone else thinks. The person attempting to achieve this goal would now be constantly wondering if he or she has lost enough weight to make a good impression on the other party that he or she has in mind. Unlike the goals mentioned above, this approach takes away the self-control aspect as the control shifts to other people’s opinions instead.
Happiness in the Eye of the Beholder
Now let’s take a look at someone striving for the goal of happiness. How do we measure that goal? All of us have heard stories about people trying to make themselves happy by buying things. Many who did so probably thought that would in and of itself make them happy. The reason is they probably measured happiness by how much people have. But does that truly fulfill in and of itself?
To provide an example of this, I have done the same thing. About ten years ago, I bought a brand new car and I must say I did enjoy it. Thinking back on it now, though, a better measure of what brought happiness with that car is reliable transportation to see attractions by traveling. What I mean by attractions is that I am interested in ancient stone architecture and I drove to see incredible structures all the way from New England to Oklahoma. I also had the opportunity to meet people who studied those structures and personally offered me tours of them. All of those experiences, in the end, were the true measures of happiness for me and not the car itself.
Measuring Your Happiness
As you can see, it can be pretty easy to fall into the ‘buying things to make us happy’ belief system in our Western culture. My new car example, in the end, is just one in a sea of thousands of other examples available in our culture. Heck, even having more money won’t necessarily make us as happy as we might think either. There are, after-all, plenty of real-life stories from those who won the lottery and found that not only did it not make them happy but actually caused additional unexpected problems.
There are things we can do to measure what really does make us happy. One of those is we can listen to ourselves. An example of how we can listen to ourselves is to start a journal and talk with others about what it is that made us happy about something. If you have trouble getting started, you can start with the every-day little things. For example, we went to the park the other day and really enjoyed watching our son play on the playground. Our happiness came from watching him having fun rather than going to that particular park; so our happiness came from what happened and what we did there rather than just the act of going there by itself. Having that understanding means that we have a better idea of what brings us happiness and we can use that knowledge to purposefully create another happy event in the future regardless of where we actually are.
As mentioned, you can also talk with others about what makes you happy. One way to do this is to perhaps create a time to talk with your significant other and make the focus of the conversation on what was it about your day/ week/ or month that made you happy. Make it a “happy-only” conversation by not allowing any other topics to disrupt the focus. By making ‘happiness’ the focal point of the conversation, you’ll start to build a clearer understanding of what helps create happiness for yourself and can use that for the future. After-all, the more you embrace happiness, the more happiness can grow within you.
Overall, the examples provided here were pretty basic. What we encourage you to do is to build upon what is here and use that to create a better understanding of what brings you happiness.
What examples can you provide to show how you measure your happiness?