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Happiness is not a matter of intensity

but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.

                                                                     –   Thomas Merton





“ … that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


This line (from the U.S. Declaration of Independence) is VERY well-known.  Certainly every American is familiar with it.  But I suspect that it has (in no small way) contributed to our dysfunctional relationship with the notion of Happiness.


It does NOT SAY that everyone has the right to be happy.  It does NOT say – if we pursue happiness, that we will attain it.   It does not even say that we should pursue happiness as a goal.


What it means is – that a person should have the opportunity to make his (or her) life better … that those efforts should not be hindered by (the state or) anyone else.


It is worded the way it is – for economy.

(I have read that – Thomas Jefferson never said two words when one would do.)



I wish to commend to you 2 (TED talk) videos that I happened to watch recently –    

(“There’s more to life than being happy”  – Emily Esfahani Smith)

Emily spent many years researching the HAPPINESS problem.  She found that pursuing happiness can actually make us unhappy.  She came to the conclusion that what we need is –

MEANING.  And she found that meaning seems to have four pillars


Belonging  (Love)

Purpose  (Service)


Storytelling  (how we interpret … and ‘frame’ our life)


I think that Emily’s talk does a good job of clarifying – that these Big human Issues do not reduce to “information”.  One must develop a “vision of life … for them to make sense.

It’s our vision (of life) which gives us the power to interpret individual events.      Mmm?


Another TED talk is    

(“What 1 skill = an awesome life?”-  Dr. Shimi Kang)


She says –

“I’ve been a medical doctor for 17 years.  I’ve researched the science of human motivation.  I’ve worked with thousands of people from all walks of life, and I believe that we humans are in trouble.”

“We’re in a place of negative evolution.  We have made sleep deprivation a symbol of ambition, and ‘rested’ a symbol of laziness.  We have made being too busy a symbol of importance.”


The World Health Organization says that

 “Stress is the #1 health epidemic of the 21st century”

But … Dr. Kang says – there are a few people who are better than ever.  They have passion and purpose and meaning and joy in their lives.  And so I wondered – What is the difference between these two groups?  What does one group have … that the other one doesn’t? Passion maybe? No.  Nor is it ‘grit’ – (hard work).


It turns out, it’s … adaptability.


She refers to the ‘Grant study’  (the longest yet study of human development … spanning 70 years) which concluded that “the key ingredient for well-being is … the ability to make lemonade out of lemons”



Albert Einstein said –

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”


Dr. Kang wrote a book (about dolphins … and what we can learn from them)  … called – “The Dolphin Way”  (now translated and published in many other languages)


She uses the basic (dolphin) family unit – the POD to remind us of the basics of ADAPTABILITY & BALANCE.

                   P    O    D

                     l      t       o

                       a     h      w

                         y      e      n

                                    r       t

                                      s       i




(POD  = Play, Others, & Downtime)


We are in trouble if we don’t play.


But FREE PLAY, she says, activates our frontal cortex.  It stimulates all kinds of pathways for abstract thinking, for emotional regulation, for problem solving, for strategy.  Play makes us comfortable with uncertainty. It makes us take risks, and to learn from trial and error.



The “O” (in POD) is for “others” … and it’s WHY we adapt.

While dolphins are exquisitely connected to their families, their groups, and their communities … humans have forgotten – that social connection is a basic of life.  

Being lonely is as much of a risk factor for death as is smoking.


When we don’t honor the basics, we are in trouble.


Humans have also forgotten – that rest and relaxation is a basic of life.

(DOWNTIME …  This is the “D” in POD  …   and it’s WHEN we adapt)


We are so “on the go” that stress hormones are wreaking havoc on our brains and our minds.


When we don’t honor the basics, we are in trouble … and we do things – like driving & texting … and yelling at our kids to calm down.


The research on


Slowing down

Paying attention

is outstanding.

It improves our focus, our memory, our concentration, our relationships, our life-satisfaction.


DOWNTIME … The most progressive companies in the world are bringing in yoga classes, meditation rooms, and beds … because they know – that “breaks” is the moment of “breakthroughs” … that looking inward gives us innovation and inspiration.


So that’s “POD”.  And POD is how we adapt.  And adapt is how we thrive.




(book) –   “Man’s Search for Meaning”  by  Viktor Frankl    (Why Denmark is the Happiest Country)

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