I recently got sent an interesting e-mail about this book, written by George E. Vaillant.

The list was prepared by American psychiatrist and Harvard Professor George Vaillant, in his book Ageing Well. As the title suggests, the book concentrates on maintenance of happiness and health in old age. Nevertheless, I think the ‘happy list’ has general application. So what is the ‘happy list’?

In general, a maintenance of happiness requires:

  1. A future orientation – the capacity to anticipate, plan and hope.
  2. A capacity for gratitude and forgiveness
  3. The ability to imagine the World as it appears to others – the capacity for love and empathy.
  4. A capacity to interact and connect with people and believe that you are not a victim of other people’s circumstances.

It is interesting to review this list and think, with respect to it, where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Where you have weaknesses, can you attribute any unhappy episodes of late to those weaknesses? The reason I like this list is that I can see a parallel with experiences where I have been ‘down in the mouth.’ For example, I think I have a weakness in item four.

Consequently the actions of others can frustrate me, scare me, unsettle me and generally make me unhappy. I often ‘stew’ on those actions rather than concentrating on ways to move on and accomplish my own goals. That is a real area of development need for me, along with parts of item three. Where are your particular development needs?

So. 25,000 people dead in Iran, the clock ticks over to 2004, terrorist bombing still happening in Iraq… what did you bitch and moan about today? Do you possess the ability to seek perspective in the face of adversity?

You’re still alive, remember to be even thankful for just that.

Happy 2004.