In his book Resilience, Eric Greitens compares happiness to the primary colors. Just as red, green, and blue make up all other colors, so does happiness of grace, pleasures, and excellence make up happiness.
It’s the pursuit of all three that lead to sustained happiness. Much like you need to mix the primary colors to make other colors, and depending on how much of each you add, you’ll get an entirely different color. Happiness is similar. How you mix them is up to you, there isn’t a formula for happiness that will work for everybody but rest assured that you need them all.
Happiness of Grace
The happiness of grace is about being grateful. It’s about being kind to others, even when they don’t return it. It’s about compassion and love.
Giving grace to others helps you heal. It allows you to move past the traumas of the past that are holding you back.
There are many ways that you can extend grace to others. Here are a few.
- Choose not to respond in kind when somebody is rude to you. Learn to let it go. However, understand that choosing not to respond in kind doesn’t mean that you condone the behavior, or even forgive it, it means that you chose compassion over retaliation.
- Be present when someone is in need.
- Forgive. Not only others, but also yourself.
- Understand that none of us are at our best all of the time. We are sometimes off of our game.
- When somebody falls short of your/their expectations, show compassion and give them a hand up.
- Don’t hold grudges against those that have wronged you.
Grace isn’t something that’s earned, it’s something that is given freely. Something that may not even be deserved but something that you give away without expecting anything in return. However, grace given is usually returned.
Can you give too much grace to others? The short answer is yes. Giving too much grace removes responsibility. When you love somebody you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. You want to show them kindness and compassion. That’s normal.
However, giving somebody repeated grace when their behavior doesn’t change, can lead to abuse.
When grace leads to justifications for being wronged you’re no longer in a healthy relationship and that will have a negative effect on your happiness.
Happiness of Pleasures
You’ll find a lot of people talking about pleasure and happiness being two different things. I disagree. Happiness of pleasure is important. It’s okay to find pleasure in a good meal, getting a massage, or even drinking a glass of wine. In fact, those tiny pleasures are an important part of living a happy life.
It’s part of being a whole person, much like the Four Pillars of Living Balanced Life are.
Too much pleasure seeking can lead to addiction. Pleasure can happen at any time. It gives your brain a dopamine boost, even when you’re feeling down, which can lead to the drug abuse, overeating, and even alcoholism.
Happiness of Excellence
Neither grace nor pleasures will make you whole, not without happiness of excellence. It’s the pursuit of excellence that gives you the ability to grow and to become.
A truly happy person persues excellence throughout their lives. They work to better themselves. To move closer, everyday, towards their full potential.
To do this you must pivot from seeing happiness as a feeling, to happiness as an action. It’s from within that action that you’re able to grow, develop, and flourish.
This is where you begin to feel complete and understand that happiness isn’t something you either achieve or you don’t. Happiness comes from the pursuit of it. It’s about being consistent and understanding that lapses happen. We can’t be on all of the time.
We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to feel other emotions than happiness from time to time, and that’s okay. A whole person knows how to navigate all of their emotions, from sadness, to happiness, to joy.
Emotional intelligence isn’t about being happy all the time, it’s about being able to handle the negative emotions as well.
The persuit of excellence can overtake you. It can lead you to becoming a workaholic and cause you to forget to live while your pursuing a better life.
Give yourself some grace and enjoy life’s pleasures from time to time. You don’t have to be so focused on the end goal that you ignore everything else.
Living Happily Ever After
Living a truly happy life means that you persue happiness of grace, happiness of pleasures, and happiness of excellence.
To which degree is up to you. Just like red, green, and blue can be combined in an almost infinite number of ways, so can the three parts of happiness. What color you come up with is yours to create.
Happiness takes intent. It’s not one of life’s default settings, you must pursue it. Happiness can’t find you, you must find it and that starts with a choice to make it so. Happiness has been and always will be an inside job.