Sunday, October 4, 2009

Find Happiness in Strong Moments, not Balance

As an uncoordinated person, the word “balance” makes me uneasy -- I envision standing on one foot and falling over.

This week, The Huffington Post says that if we want more happiness we should stop striving for balance and seek something else instead: "Strong moments” -- those great surges of positive emotion when you hug your kid, make your spouse smile, have an epiphany, win one at work.

This is a great antidote to the unhelpful idea that more choice is making women less happy (raised most recently by Maureen Dowd). What is making women less happy is a failure to say NO to some of those choices. To say “I do not want to do that” and cross the undesirables off the schedule. See our BlogHer video for more.

We women need to grasp what men seem understand more naturally - that’s it’s really better for everyone if we are honest with ourselves. That it’s OK to say: “Of the 5 things my kids want to do, I like to do 2 -- the other 3 drive me nuts,” and then act on that realization and do the 2 you like knowing your genuine enjoyment is good for your kids. Or, “I have 6 meetings on my schedule next week. How many really make a difference? How many can I decline?”

Researching Getting to 50/50, we read fascinating research that says even today's thoroughly modern women lack the same sense of “entitlement” that men have. Women do not feel as entitled to do what we want and to say what matters (e.g. that conference/trip/fundraiser is a complete waste of time).

Carmen, a mother and doctor at a big university hospital told us how she struggled for years to find a mix of work and family that made her happy. Cutting her time at work didn’t help if it meant that Carmen’s average hour at the office was more dreary. So she negotiated with her boss and rearranged her job - to spend more time on patients who needed her skill set and less on work she felt did not matter. With more strong moments in her work day, “I’ve been so happy” Carmen told us.

Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Standford’s Graduate School of Business, is doing great work on the nature of happiness and the many ways we define it -- and can cultivate more of it. Aaker points out that how you perceive your access to free time is a big issue in whether you report feeling happy.

How to expand your free time - actual or perceived?
Believing that your spouse has your back helps a lot, sensing that if you can’t get to X or Y, you can count on your partner.

And so does what Aaker calls “filtering.” Sifting through the day and looking for “doubles, triples and home-runs” -- activities that let you simultaneously engage two or more priorities in your life: Jogging with your spouse, community work that welcomes the whole family, colleagues who do playdates.

So I’m looking for a parent-child yoga class in hopes of getting limber and engaging my daughter’s love of the tree pose -- she’s better at “balance”.

By Sharon Meers


Unknown said...

Such great advice - I am trying very hard to follow it. Even with a very supportive husband who is always telling me to do what I want to do, I still find myself thinking - what am I "supposed" to be doing right now. I have been back to work for 3 years after a 10 year lay-off to have 4 great kids, and every day is a challenge to find my "strong moments". Thanks for the great blog!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great insights. I too, have long believed in balancing passions and not hours and that's the philosophy I try to live by. I liked your use of "strong moments" to describe tyour concept. I have long had your book on my "to read" list and can't wait to Kindle it now and get started!

Anonymous said...

Sharon, it was great meeting you this afternoon at soccer. I just got Getting to 50/50 and will also look forward to reading your future blog posts.

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