Thursday, June 26, 2008

Role Models, Questions, and Happiness

You may recall Arnold Schwarzenegger's formula for becoming governor of California: to form a mental picture of everything a successful candidate would do and then do it.

A collection of questions may arise in other endeavors. "What would Jesus do?" is asked by many Christians when considering daily spiritual guidance. A simple dieting question is, "What and how much would a thin person eat?" Employees are often urged to consider "How would my actions look if described on the front page of the newspaper?"

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suggested pretending that you've already done something and then asking yourself how you would feel. That's not a bad question but it may not sufficiently distinguish between how we'll feel immediately after the event and how we'll feel a day later. As Dennis Prager notes in his book on happiness, there is a difference between happiness and fun. Many activities may be fun in the short-term but they won't bring happiness.

And perhaps that's one of the many rubs: sorting out the daily struggle between short-term and long-term interests. A short-term pack of wolves nips at our heels while the long-term bear hibernates. Eventually, of course, the bear will awaken and pay us a visit.

We then learn that we should have given him far more attention.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Michael. I like the question my friend Jim Cathcart suggests: "How would the person I want to be handle this?"

Michael Wade said...


I like that! That can be used on a daily basis.

I also like the observation by one psychiatrist at Harvard that whenever he encounters a person he asks, "What does this person really want and what will he do to keep from achieving it?"