Prominent blogger and Landmark Education graduate Alex Shalman recently interviewed senior Landmark Forum Leader and former oncologist Joe DiMaggio on the subject of happiness. Shalman did the interview as part of the Happiness Project, a series of interviews featuring experts in field of personal growth and development. The interview comes about a month before Landmark Education begins to hold Creating Happiness graduate program events across the world.
How do you define happiness?
My view of this question is that trying to define happiness in a way that applies to everyone is counterproductive. Happiness when examined as something other than a concept or theory is unquestionably a personal phenomenon. For example, for one person it seems that happiness is running barefoot through the grass. Some people seem sure that wild sex will make them happy. For others it’s holding a baby in their arms. But, for some it is a new outfit or a new pair of shoes. And, for some people, it is a hotdog and beer at a baseball game.
People as brilliant as Aristotle have been trying to define happiness for more than 2,000 years. Yet today, more than ever, people are still working really hard to figure out happiness. We, at Landmark Education, take the case that something more than “defining” happiness will be required to make a real difference in people’s experience of happiness. We take the case that what will make a difference is to get at what, in the day to day living of our lives, in the ordinary moments that make up the majority of what we call our lives, creates a new place to stand that gives us access to “happiness” independent of our circumstances.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?
I am extremely lucky. I was a happy child and I am a very happy adult. I am also clear that whether happy or unhappy, that, while I will always have to deal with circumstances in my life that I can’t control, I have everything to say about my experience of life regardless of my circumstances. One of the most powerful things I have gotten out of the programs of Landmark Education is that a whole lot how I experience life and my ability to be effective in life–Whether it be in the areas of happiness, love, vitality, safisfaction, productivity–Is a function of what I am creating as a context for myself and my life. I can now choose to have my life lead inside of contexts that I create and, with that, experience a lot of power, freedom and self-expression in the areas of life that are most important to me, including being happy.
What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness througout your day?)
Over time, I have become practiced at being fairly reliable in creating and living inside of a context of happiness that is now somewhat like second nature to me. I am also pretty reliable to no longer add the kind of interpretations, meanings, and stories to what I am dealing with that are disempowering and therefore have a whole lot of power, satisfaction and natural happiness that arises when I am dealing with my circumstances without all the “stuff” that my mind would normally add.
What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?
Obviously I am always impacted by what I experience when I have to confront what seems like humanity’s inhumanities, whether it be an AIDS epidemic in Africa, a mass murder based in religious intolerance, or just one of those moments where I or someone I love just acts like a jerk.
And, again, what makes the biggest difference is continuing to create for myself that while I cannot ever change what is happening, that it is not what is happening (no matter how “real” it seems) that is determining my response to what is happening and that I have a say about who I will be in the face of any circumstance!
I also get a lot of freedom by being clear that “being happy,” like a possibility, is not some ideal or standard where I think I should be happy all the time. Obviously, there are circumstances we all face where happiness may not be an appropriate response. Then, in any circumstance, I can come from “I am happy” and deal with whatever I have to deal with inside of that possibility.
What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?
Other than developing what I said above, there is really nothing I am looking forward to regarding being “happier”. For me, happiness is a right now phenomenon, a place to “come from” phenomenon, a “stand I am” kind of phenomenon and a matter of “being” rather than something I strive for. What Landmark Education has provided me is the real opportunity to create my life every day–To be happy, powerful, up to something that inspires me, to be with people as a self expression, etc.–As a matter of who I am and not as a response to what life presents me.
Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions.