One study revealed that nearly three-quarters of college freshmen consider being ‘very well-off financially’ to be a ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ goal” (Bolt, 2004: 124). However, personal experience has taught me that happiness has nothing to do with any of these things.
My experience started one day when a friend of mine finally got tired of hearing me gripe about my many petty (and some important) irritations in life. He was my primary sounding board, so I felt abandoned when he told me he wouldn’t listen anymore until I had written down the 33 happiest moments of my life. I resisted, of course, but finally needed to vent so I sat down and started my list. It took me days of thinking, jotting down a note, thinking some more, scribbling and rearranging before I finally had a list I felt ready to show my friend. I didn’t really notice it at the time, but for the entire period I was working on my list, those problems I was always complaining about seemed to melt away.
This readjustment of my thinking was exactly what my friend explained he’d been going for. He had taken a class in which this exercise had been given and he’d learned that when you spend time focusing on the good things that have happened to you in life, you feel less negative and the outside world looks more positive. You start seeing the possibilities in life instead of the obstacles. I understood because I’d just experienced this, but he was right that I probably wouldn’t have understood if he’d just told me.
When I showed him my list, he helped me go through it and grouped my moments into several categories. These ended up including accomplishments, gifts, helping others, family, trips, nature and miscellaneous. As we talked about my list, I realized that even in those areas that might sound more like a focus on material elements, the focus was clearly more on the experience involved rather than the item itself.