Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life Puzzle is about authentic happiness

In January 2005, I was introduced before a training I was about to do with the following quote by Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association.

“For most of its history, psychology has concerned itself with all that ails the human mind: anxiety, depression, neurosis, obsessions, paranoia, delusions. The goal of practitioners was to bring patients from a negative, ailing state to a neutral normal, or, ‘from a minus five to a zero’*. I realized that my profession was half-baked. It wasn’t enough for us to nullify disabling conditions and get to zero. We needed to ask, What are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish? How do we get from zero to plus 5? Martin Seligman, American Psychological Association
Time magazine, January 2005. The Science of Happiness. (** His minus 5 to zero is the 0-5 side of the Life Puzzle Choosing Continuum)

The man who was introducing me said to his staff--"Ann is here to help you take your clients from zero to plus 5--helping them become happy, not just getting by."
I smiled when this occurred because everything I've always tried to do with Life Puzzle is to help people build whole and dynamic lives. I've always been frustrated by what Seligman mentions above--working in the psychological field that is "half baked"--because it never wanted to discuss building whole lives--just getting folks through the day. Ugh!

Recently I came across a talked Seligman did in 2004--it is posted on great source for interesting talks on a wide variety of topics. In this presentation, he's talking about "happiness" and what makes people happy. He shows that "happiness" can be broken into three distinct levels: Pleasant level of happiness, The Good Life level of happiness and The Meaningful life level of happiness. These are 3 very different ways of being happy. In the "pleasant level", life is filled with pleasures--all the good things of life. In the Good Life level--people who experience this level of happiness have key areas of their life that make them happy--but they still have significant other missing pieces. For example, he talks about Len--a man who loves his work and is quite wealthy--but is horrible in relationships because he's so uncomfortable in that arena. So, he has a good life--but he knows something is missing. The last level is the "Meaningful life" and the people who experience this level of happiness are those who know their greatest strengths and use them to serve the world.

As I listened to this talk--I could see that Life Puzzle is a model for the "meaningful life" level of happiness. In the process of putting together your life--it includes the whole picture of happiness--all of the 16 core areas add up to a meaningful life. If you are conscious of all 16 areas and add to them throughout your life journey--you will inevitably discover your greatest strengths and find a way to use them in serving the world.

This level of happiness doesn't just happen of course. It does require effort--but the payoff is that highest level of happiness and that makes all the effort worth it. So, if you've ever said to yourself that Life Puzzle making is so much effort without being guaranteed a good return on your investment--I think Seligman's study proves the pay off does come in terms of a meaningful level of happiness and that makes it all the more fun to do!