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What are you doing?

Person making a checklist

Happiness is said to have three ingredients: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

This is part of 2 or a 4-part series exploring happiness from the perspective of Transparent Alignment.

Let’s dive into DOING. What are you doing? If asked when I’m NOT doing what I am “supposed to be doing” (or I fear that to be the case), this question often triggers defensiveness or shame. YUCK! “How are you doing?” On the other hand, can feel diminutive as if expected to NOT be well.  These questions are often asked out of habit or in courtesy while going through our daily activities. In which case, is there really time to answer honestly? And as far as my response, do I even know HOW I AM? How I am feeling? How I am functioning? The question really being asked might be: HOW AM I BEING? AM I being myself, am I being in the moment, am I being human?

What do we really mean when we ask, “HOW are you doing?” Never once has someone responded to any version of this question with specifics and tangible examples of “doing”. Imagine hearing this response: “Well, I woke up in the morning with my alarm, which I confess is a bit of a challenge for me so I had to get help from my spouse. After my shower, with water and soap that I rubbed all over my body, I dressed and left the house, locking the door behind me, using my key. Next, using a different key, which really isn’t a key anymore, I ignited the engine of my car and drove from my driveway to the coffee shop to pick up my morning joe. Along the way, I repeatedly depressed the accelerator and the brake to control the speed and velocity of my movement. I stopped at a stop sign. Looked to the right and left for oncoming traffic…

Instead of these kinds of details of HOW I do the things, I hear evidence of the by-product of our doing, of the HOW I am feeling while or after doing the things. Let me explain.
How are you?
Fine. and the conversation ends or at best you reflect the same. NO real information, and yet the absence of data is in fact perhaps telling us that it’s too much to share, they don’t care to share, or there really is nothing to share.
How are you?
“So busy!” Followed by a sigh and either a silent request to be encouraged or affirmed in our busy-ness.

What we really aren’t doing is answering the question HOW are you doing, and answering WHAT we have been doing doesn’t cut it! What about BEING? How are you BEING? Ask yourself, it doesn’t even have to be answered to anyone else. But if we don’t answer it for ourselves, we lack perspective to choose wisely which tasks and activities belong on our to-do list and which perhaps should go.

According to recent studies, lacking a sense of purpose can be detrimental to your. One international study found that that people who have a sense of purpose in life are at lower risk of death and heart disease. Researchers found that those with a clear purpose often have healthier lifestyles. They are more motivated and resilient, which protects them from stress and burnout. Researchers also found that while individuals from the U.S. defined “purpose” as akin to “usefulness to others”, those from Japan were powered by a deeper, more expansive interpretation of happiness. They refer to this as ikigai (pronounce ee-kee-guy).

Like many of our Sanskrit translations, there is no simple, direct translation into English for the Japanese word ikigai. It roughly means the “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you get up in the morning.” In a nutshell, it encompasses the idea that happiness in life is about more than money or a fancy job title, it just might be about discovering our Life’s Work. I was introduced to Ikigai as the intersection of FOUR reflective questions:

  • What you love (values)
  • What you are good at (skills)
  • What the world needs (significance)
  • What you can get paid for (energy exchange)

So for example, maybe you LOVE dogs and being outdoors (VALUE). You also happen to have great report with dogs and other dog fans, it comes easy to you because you love dogs (SKILLS). Next, you observe that many people simply don’t have time to give their dogs the attention they want to give them because of their busy work schedules (NEED). So they ask YOU (or maybe you offer) to give their dog some attention, a walk, a quick visit during the day (ENERGY EXCHANGE). You might even do this kind of activity often enough you become an income earning Dog Walker helping multiple families care for the four-legged friends.

Take a moment and reflect on these questions for yourself. After answering, can you see any overlap? In this overlap is where we can clarify what tasks on our to-do list MATTER and those that may be left-overs we just can’t throw away yet.

Now keep in mind, there will always be things on our list that we don’t like to do (like cleaning the toilet) and even some things we may not be good at (like planning a budget). These still need to get done, but they may not need to be done by me. Let me give you an example: I have 3 children and 3 bathrooms… guess what I DON’T do! I’m only kidding (not about the chores, just about my participation). This is NOT a good reason to have children, just a good application of resources once they are already here 😊

What’s on your list that could be delegated? Do you know some people actually enjoy cleaning toilets and talking about budgets and money. Ask them to help you! What’s on your list that maybe doesn’t support your happiness and might not be missed if they were left un-done? Try for a week, can you NOT DO THEM?!?! DO the things that matter. The things that bring you joy and satisfaction. The energy you save NOT doing the tasks that don’t serve just might give you more than enough time and energy to do those things you still have to do (until you find the right person to delegate them to).