The Happiness Equation

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Prosperity is Proportionate with Proximity to Productivity

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:2-4 NKJV

Prosperity of soul, or happiness, comes in many forms. We all know this because we seek it out daily. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who did not want to prosper, but I meet relatively few who actually feel it.

With all the ‘things’ in life available to us, why are so few of us truly happy? Is there a formula for us to follow? Is there a way for us to dive into a task or circumstance and find that we love what we are doing?

Yes. It’s the formula that game companies have discovered and used to make us addicted to their $.99-turns-into-$99 apps. It’s the formula that psychologist have discovered and prescribed as treatment for depression. It’s why doing a seemingly menial task provides such a sense of reward. Some find it in prayer and spirituality, others in relationships, and others in work, sports or nature, but they all have something in common:

Proximity to Productivity

In my opinion and observation, this is the key. What do I mean by proximity to productivity? I mean that when your hands and knees are in the dirt of the garden that you tilled, you fertilized, you planned, you purchased seed for, you waited on rain for, you planted and now you’re harvesting, you are smack dab in the middle of your productivity. It was you. It was hard work. It was sacrifice, and it was beautiful. The sheer joy you received from being so closely tied to you the direct impact of your work could not have happened if you had hired a professional team to take care of the process from start to finish. I don’t understand it, but it’s simply the way we’re wired.

The list is infinite, but here’s a stab at a few things that give us such great joy (from a man’s perspective):

Working on cars
Playing with our children
Grilling
Giving advice
Playing music
Cleaning (on our terms)
Watching football
Mowing grass
Fishing
Working a shift in a soup kitchen
Intimacy
Writing

All of these things have a few things in common.

  1. We are involved
  2. Effort is tied to result
  3. Success is identifiable
  4. Success is measurable
  5. There is an emotional impact
  6. When we can directly impact the world around us, feel and measure the results, we as men, are deeply satisfied. It occurs all the time and if we can set ourselves up to measure and feel the positive results of our work, we are more likely to gain emotional prosperity out of every day life and work.

    The Equation at Work

    It’s not only restricted to non-work tasks, however. The formula applies in the 9-5 world, too. We just have different responsibilities and our paychecks hold us accountable to the primary tasks at hand, preventing us from doing some basic tasks that can be so fulfilling. So what is it at work that helps create prosperity? I’ll answer the question with a question: How long does it take for you to determine whether or not an action you take or a decision you make pays off? Better yet, how accurately can you determine the degree to which your decisions helped the company succeed?

    Our need to contribute to success is directly tied to these metrics. If you cannot measure your own success, you cannot take steps to improve. And if you cannot take steps to improve, then why do any work in the first place? As men, we need to feel valuable to our environment and measurement makes this possible. It’s the nature of business and in order to prosper in our work, we must create environments in which to succeed, but that success must be tied to accessible data that points to the correlation between our effort and its productivity.

    The post is not intended to dive into the myriad of measuring tools and methodologies in business, but that would be a great post for my Web Marketing blog if I ever get there.

    “But I’m a teacher,” you might be saying. “How can I even begin to measure to this degree? The system isn’t conducive to gathering metrics like this.”

    Ah, great point! Let’s expand the definition of measurement in our equation to include the intangible. A teacher’s success can come from his students’ grades on standardized tests, but that really has minimal emotional reward (relief, yes, but that’s different than emotional prosperity). Intangible measures include simple things like smiles, “thank you’s”, respect and kindness. It’s not all about dashboard reporting. If you’re working environment is not capable of creating success metrics, then create your own set of emotionally oriented measurements and keep track. It can be as simple as, “Did student A turn in her paper on time this week?”

    Small, trackable measurements, which your efforts affect, that are linked to a single emotional payoff will increase happiness.

    Parenting the Equation

    When the student has become the teacher, the equation gets flipped. You are intentionally putting distance between you and measurable success.

    Let’s take it out of the business world and put it back into every day life–father life–specifically. When a father begins to teach his son about the ways of the world and how to survive and thrive, he intentionally creates a buffer between his own effort and its result. That buffer, also known as a child, contains infinite unknowns for which there is no accountability by the father. He places trust in his child to take the instruction he’s given and carry it out to its successful progression.

    This is, by nature, far more difficult, but the equation is amplified exponentially. The emotional prosperity attained from a child’s success makes your own pale in comparison. How? Because it’s your own flesh and blood. It’s your sacrifice. It’s your blood, sweat and tears that made it possible for this person to carry out the success you were able to. You blazed the trail before him and you created an environment in which the proximity to productivity was closer for someone else. It is your child’s emotional prosperity that now affects your own, and this is where happiness shoots through the roof.

    So this Father’s Day, find a way to increase prosperity. If you’re a father, look at the ways your children are succeeding and encourage them in it. If you’re a child, work on a car together with your dad, grill out together and ask his advice. Acknowledge the path that was blazed before you and do your best to say thanks.

    To my father, I say thank you with all my heart. You have built a foundation on which I can stand firm and work toward my own success. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

5 thoughts on “The Happiness Equation

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