+ Satisfaction thermometer Muse July 1010337420_sA friend recently asked me what I thought happiness was, and if I felt I was happy. These are good questions to ask ourselves, so I invite you to think for a moment how you would answer them before you read my thoughts.

Our culture uses the concept of happiness a lot. “Are you happy?” is a frequent query, as in: Are you happy in your job, in your relationship; with your salary, with your weight, with your new car, with what your children are doing? We use happy as a measuring stick to tell us whether or not we are feeling good and doing well in our lives.

In contemplating my friend’s question, I realized that I don’t resonate particularly well with the word happy. It feels a little fey and lightweight to me – perhaps it’s that it’s been over-used. So what, I asked myself, do I connect with instead of happy? This is another good question to ask your self!

What emerged was a word I’ve been using for awhile now, satisfied. Feeling satisfied is what I associate happiness with, but satisfied has a little more substance for me than happy does. Satisfaction is a gentle, but sure feeling; quiet, not full of bravado. It is a presence I feel when I’m aligned and in the moment, noticing what I’m doing in a conscious way. It allows an appreciation within the moment of the thoughts and tasks I’ve been involved with. It permeates the moment with grace.

It has taken some conscious work to cultivate satisfaction. I’ve had to un-do some of my old, conditioned responses which trap me and lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Here are some of the traps that keep me from feeling satisfied. I wonder if any of them will resonate with you as well

  1. Checking-off instead of savoring: As a confirmed list maker, I love nothing more than to make my list, go to it, and start checking things off. Bed made – check! Exercise complete – check! Emails answered – check! While it satisfies me to place that checkmark next to the completed item, the checking-off process is a pretty short-lived moment. In order to cultivate satisfaction, I’ve started to incorporate more spacer-time to savor what I’ve just done – not just the fact of its completion. I find if I’m really present to myself, I can enjoy the moment while I’m in it. This is helping me out of the check-off trap.
  2. Part-way instead of all the way: In my hurry-scurry life, I often reach a certain level of improvement on a project I’m working on, but not the level of excellence I’d like to achieve. This one’s a little tricky, as I don’t think it is realistic for me to think that I can or will or even should get to the level I’m talking about on every endeavor. I think I’d go nuts if I tried to do that! But, on a few select projects, I have really done about everything I could to make something “happen” the way I envisioned it. Last week, for example, an event I had a lot of responsibility for took a lot of work and energy, but except for one “t” I forgot to cross, the “i’s” were all dotted and everything else was in place. I had done a thorough job, and it was enormously satisfying.
  3. Undermine instead of appreciate: This third trap dovetails with the second one above. No matter how well I’ve done something, it is a familiar trap to undermine myself with the “I could have done better” line. The house isn’t really as clean as it “should” be. I’ve eaten a healthier diet today, but yesterday was a disaster, and so on. My antidote for this trap is to recognize that “For now, this is an improvement.” It helps me see the work I’ve done on a task or a goal, and I can feel the satisfaction in that.

One last thought about satisfaction: it is not selfish. It is not only for one’s self. I’ve begun setting the intention in my interactions with others for mutual satisfaction. I invite this quality into meetings I’m in, visits with friends, sessions with clients. It is almost magical to experience the results. Both parties seem to end up pleased with the encounter – enriched, stimulated, helped, inspired…dare I say, happy? Ok, happy! And satisfied!

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