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Happiness Research

Happiness research (www.psych.uiuc.edu/~ediener/research/research.html) shows that skillful people are happier because their skills match what they have to do. Wow! Where do I sign up for this happiness research? Seriously, each one of us can truly manage our stress by learning new skills, practicing them, and grasping the tools necessary for growing that garden of happiness. We cannot adequately dig a garden with our bare hands or with our delight in the seed catalog. Passive ignorance is stressful! Like a gardener, we must not only know what the tools are for, but also hone them, keep them sharp, and USE the tools.

We may observe our stress, orient ourselves to our position of stress, even whine about it and blame others for it. However, unless we decide and act upon knowledge, our “harmless” cover-ups are useless cocktail conversation. Magical thinking, such as “it will all turn out OK, without me doing anything,” will not get the job done. The job of growth in skill takes persistence and endurance, and–oh no–work! We can choose to enjoy the price of success and skill-gathering.

Extroverts are likely to enlist the help of someone who is successful at the day-to-day, habitual self-discipline needed to get the job done. Introverts, who are deep thinkers in general, may get the fun of original research.

However, learning from print or the school of hard knocks and possibly total failure–with the embarrassing fallout of failure–may be the price we pay for ignorance. In the long run, ignorance is much more expensive than skill-building.

Ignorance most often goes hand-in-hand with pride. Yes, it does. Ignorance, according to research, is often prideful self-delusion. If we are never called to account for our failures, we will become even more ignorant and prideful. I am reminded of some of our leaders. The Peter Principle applies here: people rise to the level of their own incompetence. Whom do you know who has not been held accountable and is now wallowing in prideful luxury as a result?

Finally, since skill brings happiness, I suggest that a people cannot survive on the level of stressful incompetence we have allowed to govern over us. Our freedoms are bought by blood, sweat and tears: work and more work. We need to be willing to pay the price of success in order to equip those who imitate us for success.

Judith DeSelm Bonner

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