Seeking Happiness? Think Small

8 Comments 24 December 2011

This is a guest post by By Karl Pillemer, Ph.D. Karl is the author of 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. The book was inspired by The Legacy Project, Facebook, Twitter.

HappinessWhen people seek happiness, they often think about big events: I’d be happy if only I could find a better job, make more money, find a mate, have a child – the list goes on and on.

In the Cornell University Legacy project, we’ve spent the past six years asking over 1200 of the oldest Americans for their advice to younger people on living a happier and more fulfilling life. And they see this prevalent attitude as a mistake.

When it comes to happiness, America’s elders urge us to “think small.” They believe that we must be aware and attentive to small pleasures in daily life, even as we may be waiting for something in our lives to change. They are consciously grateful for what they have, right now, rather than pinning their happiness on future achievements or possessions

On that note, here are five simple pieces of advice for happier living, from the oldest (and wisest) Americans:

Just take life in stride, I guess, do the best you can. Enjoy, if you can afford it, living; going out and treating yourself to a few luxuries, like maybe going out to dinner, going for a ride or something like that. (Abel, 77)

Be grateful for each day that you wake up. (Roman, 84)

Every morning when I wake up, I thank God that at 75 years old I’m able to get up, take my shower, go about my business, by my groceries or go to work or whatever I do, I’m very thankful for that. (Lavonne, 75)

Everybody says that you should make a goal in your life, but I don’t think that’s always necessary because you make a goal and the first thing you know, you switched over to something else. All I wanted to do was be a mother, and I did. I had three boys and three girls and my husband made a living for us, we did fairly well, all of our children are still living and they’re happy, so I’m happy. (Roseanne, 79)

To live a decent life, a comfortable life, and that basically makes me happy. (Luann, 81)

We don’t have to wait until we are old to use this knowledge. In our studies, the elders say that younger people can take this “savoring” approach to daily life now, and reap the benefits of it over the entire course of their lives.

Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. justincolunga says:

    thanks for the nice post.

  2. Hello,
    Thank you so much for your great blog. I like your post. Keep posting.

  3. Emma says:

    Definitely true. Contentment is the simpliest yet the biggest way to happiness. Thanks you for this wonderful post!
    Emma´s last blog post ..Family Lawyer

  4. COOL POST , so nice,This blog is just too cool to be missed

  5. Kimbundance says:

    Thinking small is good because happiness is in the small things.

  6. Taking life one step at a time is probably when of the greatest advice.

    I think it goes like this,suppose you want to go to your friends house,who is 10 miles away.
    You take your car out,and you notice that its raining very heavily.Still you can make it.How ? You don’t need to worry that much,simply focus on the next 200 feet that the car would travel, cuz u can see only that far,and then the next 200 feet and then the next 200 feet and so on , surely you will reach your destination.
    Live with passion,
    Prashhant
    Prashhant Misra´s last blog post ..Throughly confused, feeling lost, not knowing where i will head

  7. Michele says:

    Nice post.
    Anyone who can live in a constant state of gratitude would definitely have a happy life.
    The “if only” beliefs are based in the future. Joy is only found in the present moment!
    Michele´s last blog post ..Releasing Frustration

  8. Jon Michael says:

    Nice post. Thanks for keeping it simple :) I find the most rewarding and challenging part is to practice gratefulness continuously. It’s easy to get focused on the big things and celebrate only when you achieve something great. Yet, the elation quickly subsides if you neglect the smaller accomplishments in life. Thanks again for the valuable reminder!


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