Further’s mission statement says that we find purpose, well-being, and happiness by pushing ourselves beyond our current status quo. There is no destination called happy; it’s instead an experience stemming from the process of living our best lives.
In other words, the framers of the United States Declaration of Independence had it slightly wrong. It’s not the pursuit of happiness, it’s the happiness of pursuit.
Last summer, my friend Chris Guillebeau told me the title of his upcoming third book, and I was immediately intrigued. The Happiness of Pursuit mirrors the Further mission statement perfectly, and Chris is someone who walks the talk.
In the book, Guillebeau characterizes going further in the form of quests. A quest has a defined goal, a specific end point, and presents a clear challenge. Examples include writing a book, or visiting every country on the planet—two quests Chris has personally completed.
The Happiness of Pursuit contains numerous tales of people who have undertaken quests big and small. But what does the research say?
Dr. Brian Little released Me, Myself, and Us just one month after Pursuit. Little, now a professor at Cambridge, uses the book to summarize the research and theories that he developed while teaching a course on personality at Harvard—one that his students claimed was life changing.
Instead of quests, Little calls them personal projects—self-defining ventures that provide meaning in your life—but his conclusions about their importance are just as bold. His pioneering research on how everyday personal projects influence the course of our lives has become an important way of explaining and enhancing human flourishing.
The research identifies three motivational sources that make up our personalities. First is biogenic, or the genetic aspects that influence who we are and how we tend to act. Second is sociogenic, or the cultural influences that shape us and define acceptable behavior.
The third source of influence on our behavior is what Little calls idiogenic motives—the plans, aspirations, commitments, and personal projects that we pursue. These “free traits” allow us to act beyond the conditioning of biology and society, even to the extent of “acting out of character.” In short, our chosen goals allow us to transcend ourselves, which results in feelings of well-being and happiness.
There’s an important centerpiece to this topic when it comes to happiness and well-being, and it’s right there on the Further About page. It’s the psychological theory of self-determinism (you might recognize it if you’ve read Drive by Daniel Pink):
- We are motivated by a sense of purpose in multiple aspects of life.
- We aim to constantly “level up” until attaining mastery.
- We seek autonomy and control in our pursuits – they are our goals.
That last point is important, because happiness occurs when we’re intrinsically motivated to take on a quest or personal project—even if getting there isn’t pleasant. These are the types of activities that most easily result in the coveted flow states where we achieve our peak performance.
Both Guillebeau and Little emphasize taking small steps that bring you steadily closer toward achieving a particular goal. No project is too big if you break it down into parts and commit to moving forward each day, even if just a bit.
Andrew Carnegie said it well:
If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.
That’s why I sign off every issue of Further with keep going. What’s your next quest?
- The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
- Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
There you have it—key points from three books synthesized in less than 600 words. Allow me to place a checkmark next to this personal mini-quest.
But don’t stop here … I highly encourage you to dive deeper. Dr. Little’s book in particular has some amazing insights into personality constructs, and how they can either box us in or allow us to experience a much higher level of well-being.
A buffet of food updates: You may have heard that you don’t really need to limit cholesterol in your diet, and the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee finally agrees. So, load up on those eggs, and also, you should probably drink more coffee. But don’t put sugar in it, because sugar is the bad egg, so to speak. But what about gluten?
People who report being mindful during exercise also generally report satisfaction with exercise. And, unsurprisingly, people who report being most satisfied with exercise also exercise the most. To Jump-Start Your Exercise Routine, Be Mindful.
From the flip-flop department: “Athletes who spent the past few years embracing or scorning barefoot running can now consider whether increasingly popular ‘maximalist’ shoes — with their chunky, heavily cushioned soles — are the sport’s new wonder product.” Forget Barefoot; New Trendsetter in Running Shoes Is Cushioning.
Common dollars and sense: The Most Important Personal Finance Rules Never Change – “Spend less than you make. Be patient and consider the long term. Be aware of compound interest. These things don’t change with the seasons.” A great way to brush up on your own skills is to teach your kids about personal finance. Just focus on the math, not the money. (It was my understanding that there would be no math).
Does your job involve creativity, social intelligence, and the ability to interact with complex objects and environments? If not, watch out for that robot. Before the evil robot shows up, get some entrepreneurial inspiration from this interview with Sir Richard Branson, who starts new businesses that correct annoyances and injustices.
“How do you find a job that, on your deathbed, you won’t regret having devoted your professional life to?” This short film created by The School of Life offers a handy guide to figuring out what work is right for you.
The most maddening people in my life have not a shred of self-awareness. But you can’t tell them, because they just look at you like you’re crazy. Don’t let this be you. From Harvard Business Review: 5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware.
Now that you’ve committed to a quest, or personal project, or just some plain ol’ goals, here are 6 apps that help you stick to it. And if one of your projects is to enhance your brain by learning a new language, here are 15 Outstanding Websites to Learn Languages Online.
If all this talk of quests and projects has you inspired, but still not sure what to do, do something small. Or, if you want to find the “big” thing, try answering these 7 strange questions that help you find your life purpose.
Thanks as always for reading! If you’re digging Further, please consider sharing:
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