tiger girlSo good, read twice. Underlined. Circled. Sketched arrows. Jotted in margins. Folded it up. Toted for five weeks, including a 700-mile road trip to CA. Can I do it justice in short blog? It’s certainly worthy of a valiant attempt.

Where is happiness found? Are we even capable of recognizing it? A topic for marketers, economists, psychologists, philosophers, theologists and pretty much every human with a body. In Love People, Not Pleasure, Arthur Brooks’ OpEd, he waltzes through a host of disciplines during his exploration, cutting to the chase with biology. “From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that we are wired to seek fame, wealth and sexual variety. These things make us more likely to pass on our DNA.” But conflating the idea that getting the things we think we want will also assuage dissatisfaction and suffering is, well, just bad thinking. The cycle of craving sets us up to believe in a faulty and flawed principle: Love things, use people. Ouch.

The solution? Easy. Flip it. Love people, use things.

And this is where I think it gets tricky. Wantings never stop. From the petty (please, clerk, go faster!) to the noble (we can end world hunger) to the sublime (Maslow’s peak experience). We say yes to some of our ideas, no to others and the remainder shuffles around underground where we stuffed them. Whether expressed or suppressed, our wantings shape us over time. They are grist for our mill. Desserts we indulge. Careers we pursue. Lovers we take. Miles we run. The little decisions we make daily in service to immediate needs or long-term goals – they add up. These decisions, by themselves, are likely to have more influence in shaping who we become than the actual outcome ever could.

My personal cue that I’ve crossed into the red zone is when – my vernacular – transaction is king. When the natural warmth and connection that comes from relating gets surpassed by a drive to “get stuff done.” It’s wily because it feels productive. It looks righteous given our worlds’ infatuation with efficiency. I’ve had to develop a technique to deal with these suspicious batch of wantings that hijack time and energy. It starts with stepping back. Have to register how seriously real the urgency appears – “I MUST have …!” Unclasp my heart. Breathe. Catch the voice of self-criticism that usually lurks in these moments. And slowly return to the simplicity and humility of being one of 8 billion trying to make my way on the planet. Loosen my silent grasp. Open. Then love people, use things.