The world celebrated the first International Day of Happiness earlier this week, launched by all 193 UN member states.  The UN declared this day to bring attention to the importance of using better measures of society’s wellbeing than just Gross Domestic Product.  Surely, economic security is important to ensuring fundamental wellbeing and poverty is still all too common throughout the world – something we must never forget. But once our basic needs for safety, sustenance and shelter are met, income is not well-correlated with happiness.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes that “When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.”

Your Personal Mission

We all have natural gifts.  I firmly believe it is our responsibility to use our talents wisely.  And, as the Secretary-General noted, when we do so to contribute to others, joy is a natural result.

I love Matthew Kelly’s definition of personal mission that he uses in his book, Perfectly Yourself, 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness.  He says that “mission is where our talents and passions collide with the needs of others and the world.”  Just as with the United Nations, Matthew Kelly recognizes that the happiest people have a sense of mission.  But having a mission isn’t enough.  We must act.

Name Your Gifts

Just yesterday I was leading a Business of Life workshop in which I asked the people in the room to raise their hands if they could tell us what they’re really good at doing.  Only a few hands went up, and timidly at that.  Why is it that we have such a hard time articulating our talents?  Part of the answer is cultural.  Many of us have been taught that it isn’t polite to brag.  But knowing what you’re good at isn’t hubris.  It is, in fact, essential to your ability to steward your personal resources well and make the highest and best use of your short time here on earth.

We did a simple exercise to help the workshop participants get past this block.  I asked them to think of one accomplishment of which they were particularly proud.  It could be anything - a great presentation they gave, leading a successful project, or throwing the great salsa party that guests are still talking about years later.  Then I asked them what is it about them that made them so successful.  Those are some of their special talents.  It’s as simple as that.  At the end of the exercise, I asked them again to raise their hands if they could say what their talents are.  This time, just about every hand shot right up.

Joy Strategy: How Can You Contribute?

So what are your special talents?  If you have a tough time answering that question, complete the exercise we used in my workshop.  Then contemplate your life’s mission.  Where do your talents and passions collide with a need of others?  What will you do to put your gifts to work and make a difference?
As the United Nations acknowledged, “the pursuit of happiness lies at the core of human endeavours.”  Do something to help others.  It is likely to make you as happy as the lucky recipients of your well-intentioned effort.

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