In 2007, the Princeton economist Alan Krueger and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman published a paper called Are We Having More Fun Yet? The paper addressed the question: Has social progress, economic prosperity and technological advancements of the past 50 years changed the quality of our lives?
This is a loaded question. Because on one hand technology has undeniably changed and improved many lives. But on the other hand, when you break down how we spend our time this question becomes more complicated. Many of us spend most our time involved in unsatisfying work or chores. We stay late at work finishing a project when we would rather be at our son’s play. On the weekends, we do laundry instead of meeting with a friend for coffee. The thing is, when we aren’t working many of us are numbing by watching TV or snacking. That leaves us little time for meaningful activities or even moments of exploration.
Everyone is still looking for happiness. I believe exploration or curiosity is essential to happiness. But for some reason, we overlook curiosity.
Curiosity has always powered my life. In my curious endeavors, I have looked to the curious brains no longer with us. Leonardo da Vinci was no stranger to play. He was an innovative creator and incredibly curious. Over the years his “to-do” lists were translated. Now I can’t tell you if Leonardo da Vinci was happy, but it is apparent from his lists that he was living a life full of exploration and meaning based on his own interests and passions. By following his interests and asking questions he not only lived a meaningful life full of invention, creativity and discovery, but he also contributed to his community and communities for years to come.
Today I want you to be your own Leonardo da Vinci and try a little playful experiment.
- Explore your passions
Do you remember the last time you felt alive? What were you doing? Be curious about what lights you up. Read books about it. Don’t have time to read? Visit www.audible.com. Download and listen to a book on your way to and from work. You can also download podcasts. No dreams or current interests? HowStuffWorks is a great podcast for you. They cover anything and everything. One week they will talk about the Bermuda Triangle and the next they will discuss how quantum computers work.
- Try something new
Never tasted Korean food? Try it. Be mindful and conscious about the food. What do you like about it? What do you not like about it? Remember you don’t have to go across the world to have a different cultural experience.
- Get to know old friends
This week, make it a goal to find out something new about the people you know. Ask them questions. The questions don’t have to be complicated. Just make sure you listen. That is the most important part.
The pursuit of happiness is a brave journey. And it is not as simple as having a loving family, a supporting partner, a nice car, a big house or successful career. Don’t be afraid to thrive on uncertainty and rekindle your curiosity. Chances are, that is where you will find your true life purpose.
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Originally published in Dr. Michaels’ blog
December 1, 2014