Saturday, May 22, 2010


William Butler Yeats wrote that "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." This is one of those succinct moments when you read or hear a thing and it pulls all the pieces of your puzzle into a full picture. How a simple phrase can reignite your passion. It makes me understand why despite having all that I have that I still feel like I am searching. It also reveals that happiness is not a point in time but instead is an everchanging state of being. It unwinds the complexity of the search for happiness. In all the times when I am least satisfied I can see that those are the times of the least growth.

Imagine all the different areas in which we can experience growth. We do not grow in all areas at the same time. A friend of mine, a single mom just moved in with her long time boyfriend. She is growing in the area of relatonships. Another friend watches her second child go off to University and needs to develop a new agenda. She is growing to define what pleases her now. She is developing a new agenda for her life. Another friend has started a business and left her job behind. She is growing in the emotional parts of her inner self that encourage self reliance and confidence. In all these instances, the early chaos gives way to a peaceful retrospective of what has occurred and how we have grown. It is only in glancing back that we can see that the chaos and emotion was a necessary prerequisite to this new plateau.

We do not need to grow in all areas at once. One area is enough. Two can be stimulating. When we grow in many areas at the same time the chaos is overwhelming. Sometimes life events force change. Then we grow in many ways at the same time. The unbearable tumult gives way to a new day with new skills and new strengths haphazardly acquired but valuable nonetheless.

Real life is a tennis volley back and forth between the search for safety and our need to grow. When we settle into our safe place our dissatisfactions gradually rise to where we break out in one area of our lives and seek growth. Small puddle jumps let us try on change but do not induce the heart pounding chaos that inspires true growth. The real growth comes when we abandon our safety net and leap across the unknown abyss. The abyss jumping extreme sport is not for the faint of heart!

At other times we retreat into the no growth zone and wallow in a melancholy from which we cannot break free. We fall into a place where we are recognizably dissatisfied but not confident enough to catapult ourselves into change. It is a strange unhappy place, safe because of it's familiarity but dangerous for the very same reasons.

When you risk your safe place for new growth you create a happiness quotient that far exceeds the inputs. Not ground breaking to repeat that we need growth to be happy but the reminder can shake you out of your safe place and encourage you to try something new. So long ago spoken, Yeats words still live. How profound.

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