Saturday, December 31, 2011

Exposed: Achieving your values brings happiness

I was recently asked about a quote I have on my FaceBook page.  I have two quotes listed and I was caught off guard by the question.   I also felt a bit exposed and maybe put on the spot so I did what came naturally (to me), I attempted to pretend to make light of it.   I actually played possum, so to speak.  It’s not a good strategy.  It’s really quite dim-witted and dull, but sometimes when I am caught off guard or feel exposed, I am not so very quick on my toes, or my verbal responses.  Of course putting your life, or your life’s dreams and values up on FaceBook kind of makes you fair game for being exposed, kind of like blogging, I suppose. 

The quote was/is by Ayn Rand and it goes as follows: 

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. 

It’s a quote that I connect to for several reasons.  Mainly, I value happiness.  I firmly believe happiness is not one of these abstract concepts that needs to be lost on so many.  I believe happiness is attainable, abundant and at the ready for anyone that wants it.  I really like happiness a great deal in spite of my sometimes serious grimace or determined gait.  Read on, because those features might be me in pursuit of happiness.  Smile when you see it in me, I am getting happy or going for happiness full-on.

What do I value?  What makes me happy?  What comes to mind immediately, I would have to say first and foremost, my children, or the opportunity to share life with them.  Not so much in the literal sense of giving life but more in the ethereal sense of providing opportunities for them to see beauty and develop wonder and see the goodness of each day.  To have been able to expose them to different paths and possibilities and then allow for their lives to emerge and choose the path that works for them.  I’m not saying this has been easy or even clearly in view at all times, but I think they are truly open to the world around them and feel valued.  To have lived by my values to provide a chance for them to develop their own has been a worthy cause.  I know it’s schmaltzy but maybe that’s another value of mine - schmaltz, in all of it’s puffed up, glittery, feel-good potential.

I value hard-work and productivity.  Ambition.  Drive.  Accomplishment.  Discipline.  The concept that cutting and stacking wood to heat the hearth can fulfill all of these values sometimes as much as, or more so, than landing a high-powered position isn’t lost on me. In fact it is incredibly attractive in it’s simplicity.  But I also enjoy the bigger, bolder attempts, the kind that provide regular paychecks to buy the wood that needs to be chopped and stacked and fed into the hearth of the happy home.

Individuality.  Independence.  Creativity.  Risk-taking.  These speak to confidence and drive and sometimes the chance to just push past all of the restrictive and constraining doubts that linger all around us unheeded and unduly.  These are important values that provide and abundance of happiness when acted upon.

Strength.  This is my big scary value that I exude and ultimately intimidate and then quiet and shamefully attempt to mask.  I understand I need to temper this one but I have some more time to work on it.  It’s a process, this life and this undertaking of values and this desire for happiness, at least give me that much.  Strength is also evident in being able to carry on.  To wake up each morning and face adversity and take it head on or push it aside to achieve some other small accomplishment or complete a basic task.  For me strength is the power to be resilient and remain hopeful and expectant amidst a great deal of unhappiness in others.  And the on-going idea that my strength has some ability to make someone else feel less strong?  Poppy-Cosh! There is plenty of strength to go around, have at it!  (Time will tell if I can temper this, or want to, or need to.)

Passion.  Desire.  Pleasure.  Sexuality.  So much taboo and taintedness, restraint and discipline associated with these values that provide deep interconnectedness or momentary thrill.   The opportunity to express and feel and live is electric and vital.  Why do we work so hard to devalue and demean and disparage these feelings?    Another day.  Can’t figure it all out here.  I do know that this value has been one in need of minimizing for the conformity police and the jump to conclusion die-hards.  But the secrets out: this one makes me happy, easily, and quickly, under the right circumstances, or lighting, or eagerly, smiling, kind and gentle companion. Privately and respectfully.

Faith.  This value is a bit tough to truly explain to others.  Faith has this negative association with religion.  Religion has this negative association with rules and restrictions and restraint and conformity and discipline, which are typically values I run from, but I have a very unique relationship with religion and faith.  It’s not easy to describe or explain.  Well that’s not really true.  It’s not easy for others to hear about because religion and faith have these really harsh and negative connotations with you know, rules and restrictions and hatred and war, even.  That’s just not right though.  That has nothing to do with faith.  I do go to church, more than occasionally.  I like the traditions, the structure and the opportunity to sit and think of something, anything, bigger and better than self and society.  I also like the concept of faith as a value in saying “I have faith in you.”  “I believe in you.”   I have great certainty in the power and ability of others being able to carry on and succeed when they try, attempt, risk it all for some piece of happiness, really isn't that faith?  I am really happy to know that I have faith in myself, in others, and have welcomed the faith others have in me.

Appreciation. Wonder. Joy.  I value beauty and nature and color.  The natural world.  The man-made contrived.  I cannot recall a day in my life that something has not captured my attention and surprised me or caught me off guard in a manner that has not left me awe struck.  Each day on my way to work I drive toward the Catskill Mountains and see the interplay of sky and clouds and color.  Water and mountains and trees.  Fog or mist, snow, sun…color, movement, life.  The play of light.  The constructed invention of humans.  Buildings, parks, walkways, internet, medicine, books, language.....Joy, wonder, appreciation.

Wit.  Real, funny, happy, laughter causing wit. Play.  Like sledding or skipping just because.  Playfulness.

Honesty.   (Realizing that sometimes being honest about yourself leaves you exposed.  So trust might have to come with honesty, hand in hand.  I honestly want to have fun and take life slowly.  I honestly like the idea of being available to anything that comes my way but I honestly don't operate that way as much as I would like to imagine. I am honest to a fault, when called out or asked to share my thoughts or opinion.  OK, I didn't exactly share all of this when the quote on my FaceBook account was brought up, but if a follow-up question was asked I would have.  Or if I knew why my FaceBook account was being heavily scrutinized or perhaps simply curiously reviewed.   I am honestly, at times a big talker but still a lot of fun to be with and snarky as all get out occasionally. Honestly, I want what most of us want; love, companionship, connection, belonging and the courage to be honest about it.  All a process....But I definitely value honesty and it's not always easy to come by, which makes it that much more valued.)


I am so easily happy, see?  There are so many opportunities for happiness all around us.  Everyday, all ways.  Ripe for the picking when you have values. And we do, all of us.  We might just need to wipe them off and re-evaluate or realign ourselves to them.  

And for your reading and thinking pleasure just a couple more quotes by Ayn Rand, a phenomenal woman with clearly articulated values and therefore, hopefully happiness.

 “Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.”
Ayn Rand

“Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a person's sexual choice is the result and sum of their fundamental convictions. Tell me what a person finds sexually attractive and I will tell you their entire philosophy of life. Show me the person they sleep with and I will tell you their valuation of themselves. No matter what corruption they're taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment - just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity! - an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exultation, only on the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces them to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and accept their real ego as their standard of value. They will always be attracted to the person who reflects their deepest vision of themselves, the person whose surrender permits them to experience - or to fake - a sense of self-esteem .. Love is our response to our highest values - and can be nothing else.”
Ayn Rand

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