Hey, hey, hey, what about the AFTER-life? No, not the afterlife and reincarnation. But the AFTER-life…. the little self-talk you have and I have, saying things like,

  • “Well, if I have a great house, I’ll be happy.”
  • “Once I lose 12 or 20 or 50 pounds, I’ll be happy.”
  • “After I finish my dissertation, I’ll be happy.”

The “after-this” and “after-that” life.

There are CERTAINLY times in your life when it’s effective to focus on your goal, and to say, “I am not going to dilly-dally on this yellow brick road. I am full-steam focused ahead, and I’ll be pushing on this project until I complete it.” Yes, yes, and yes! I am all for focus and self-regulation.

At the same time, what are you doing in the now-life to make yourself happy?

You will always have goals, you will always have deadlines, and you will always have emergencies. What are you doing to enjoy life in the midst of all this? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said on a panel at the Gallup positive psychology conference in Fall, 2005 that if he could ask every person on the earth one question, the question that he would ask is, “To what extent are you fully alive?”

What am I talking about? No, not pretty words and affirmations. I am talking about enjoying the now, noticing the now. More than anything, I am talking about you getting your personal enjoyment from the now!

  • EXAMPLE: How exciting is brushing your teeth? However, Dr. Kathleen Hall of the Stress Institute says that you can make it alive and exciting by thinking about your great smile and how much good chewing your mouth has done for you all your life. This particular detail may not work for you, but what ideas like this do work for you to make a tedious, regular task feel good, feel healthy, or feel alive in some way?
  • COUNTER-EXAMPLE: Like Seth Godin writes here, many of us would have walked by a world-class violinist if we heard him on our daily morning commute. And that’s what may make us sad about the Washington Post article, he writes: that we would probably not have noticed him either.

The main thing that I can tell you about enjoying the “now” (even in the midst of deadlines towards the “after”) is that Barbara Fredrickson’s research all points to the fact that when you are in an emotionally open state, you are both more creative and productive (broaden) and you have more reserves to deal with anything that the world throws upon you (build).

Welcome to Friday questions. Today’s question is:
What are you doing in the NOW-life to make yourself happy?


  1. Posted Friday April 13, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    What am I doing in the NOW-life that makes me happy?

    You’ll totally laugh, but ok:
    * I love challenging classes at the gym – like interval classes or especially intense workouts – they make me happy during and after.
    * Again, you’ll totally laugh, but a great friend of mine makes super steamed vegetables – mostly cauliflower with other vegetables with cumin and corriander – and sometimes we add soy sauce afterwards – that food is sooooo good!
    * I love checking off my priority every day. There is one work priority I’ve been experimenting with in the past couple of weeks, and I love making sure that I do that every day. It challenges me, and the everydayness of it grounds me.
    * I love brushing my teeth (I know that’s weird) – that’s probably why I used that example.
    * I love talking with friends in the evening on the phone, after work, after the gym. It is so nice to catch up in a relaxed state.

    Two great sources:

  2. Posted Monday April 16, 2007 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    What am I doing in the NOW-life that makes me happy?
    1. Teaching yoga.
    2. Propounding Happiness in my blog posts.
    3. Accepting all of the love that keeps pouring in without worrying about returning the sentiments.
    4. Practice, practice, practice (being happy).

  3. Posted Monday April 16, 2007 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Barbara, I completely see all those things on your blog! Especially the happiness ties throughout!

    As to your point #3, by accepting the love that is pouring in, you are returning the sentiment. :)

    Thank you for your answer.
    Best to you,

  4. Posted Monday April 16, 2007 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny but when I was a medical intern and spending alot of time in the hospital caring for sick pts and feeling overtaxed, it was also a time that I felt really “alive”. It was draining work but also a constant reminder of how fortunate most of us are to be healthy and able to walk out of the hospital post-call on a sunny day and be wowed by the brightness of a flower blooming next to the sidewalk. The appreciation for these small things (and big things!) was effortless at that time. Maybe this is a case for times in life that are characterized by a degree of self-deprivation and intensity.

    My husband (who I was dating at that time) jokes that I romanticize those years now. I wonder why this is, vs. a colleague of mine who describes herself as clinically depressed during the same residency and looks back on those years as an entirely unpleasant experience. For both of us, it’s in the past, and both of us seem reasonably content with our present circumstances.

  5. Michael Felberbaum
    Posted Thursday May 24, 2007 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I like the distinction between the now-life and the after-life. Kind of mirrors my understanding of my expectations and my current conditions, both of which seem to be constantly influencing each other.

    I would like to complicate this discussion a little bit by thinking about a study I just heard about. I’m sure you know it already. I heard it on a CD I’m listening to on business development. The study was conducted by Daniel Goleman, I think, in order to test delayed gratification. In the study, the researchers left a marshmallow in the room and told a child that if they ate it, that is the only marshmallow they’d get. If they waited until the researcher came back, they’d get a WHOLE bag of marshmallows. Not surprisingly, the conclusion was to draw a parallel between succcess and delayed gratification.

    So, my question is: if success is often dependent on delayed gratification and happiness is often dependent on enjoying the present, as well as achieving some measure of success, then how do we reconcile all these things?

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