Find Happiness Outside the Rat Race – Part 2

by Stephen Mills on February 3, 2009

Joy and Love

Are you ready to get on with your fantastic life?  If you have not read the first part of How to Find Happiness Outside the Rat Race please do so now.  As indicated in the first post in this series, the method presented is based upon Richard Brodie’s  Getting Past Ok: A Straightforward Guide to Having a Fantastic Life. I highly recommend this $10 book.  I cannot distill an entire book into several blog posts, but I am giving you the essence of the the method and you can do a great deal with the information provided.  I originally was going to complete this series in two posts, but I wasn’t able to do that without making Part 2 very long.  Part 2 will finish the actual technique and Part 3 will provide some finishing touches as well as cover why it is so important that you go through this exercise of discovering your core needs.

When you finish Part 2 you may ask is that it?  Nothing that simple can be that effective right?  Wrong.  Simple ideas are often the most profound and they are effective precisely because it is possible for mere mortals to implement them.  Don’t dismiss this until you give it a good trial and please make sure your read part 3.  It will help you understand why this process is so important for you and those you care about.

Once you have all of your results from the question answering process, you need to look back through them and write down any words or phrases that occur more than once.  If the word “thrill” occurred 3 times in your answers then write down “thrill” on your list.  When you have finished creating this list, you need to separate the results into three categories: core needs, means, and structures.

  • Core needs are those experiences you require for sustained happiness and success in life.
  • Means are the ways you get those experiences.
  • Structures are those things by which you use various means to experience your core needs.

Means and needs are sometimes very similar and easily confused, but don’t worry about that right now.  You can tease them apart later.  What you are ultimately going to end up with is a list of your core needs.  The means and structures are not very important, but your core needs are everything.  This list will be a foundation for being happy for the rest of your life.  We all have different core needs.  I need to be alone a fair bit of time whereas others may need a lot of other people around to be happy.  Some people are deathly afraid of many thrill-type activities while others crave them constantly.  Some people constantly need new experiences while others find happiness and peace in the routine and familiar.

Going for walks along the trails in the woods is a structure some (including myself) use to get to the means of being alone in nature to fulfill several core needs such as beauty, serenity, and alone time.  I once believed that going for walks in the woods was a core need of mine, but in fact it is not.  It is simply a structure.  I am able to experience one or more of those same core needs by the structure of walking along a deserted beach which gets me to the means of being alone in nature which creates the same experiences to fulfill some of my core needs.  The genius of this approach by Brodie is to allow you to identify your core needs by separating them from the means and structures by which you experience them.  Once you understand your core needs, you can find many structures and means to create the experiences that fulfill them.

I personally am not tied to a location that has easy access to uncrowded woods or even the means of being alone in nature.  I can be locked inside a huge metropolitan area and use the structure of a quiet art or natural history museum to get to some of the same experiences.  Another person might take walks in the woods or visit a museum to fulfill different core needs.  One person might use the structure of a high-paying job as a trauma surgeon to get to the means of making a lot of money which enables them to experience their core need of independence.  Another may use that structure and means to experience their core needs of recognition and respect.

No matter where you are or what circumstances you find yourself in for the rest of your life, you will always be able to find ways to experience your core needs.  As a result you will surely find and sustain genuine happiness.  The structures and means may come and go but the core needs can still be experienced.  Brodie’s method provides a simple and elegant way to understand exactly how you can have a truly happy, or as he describes it, a fantastic life.

Wwhen you are going through a rough period in your life or when you are feeling down or less than super fantastic, you now have the method to make the needed corrections.  Whenever you are considering something new, be it big or small, you can see how it measures up to your core needs and thus determine whether it will contribute to your ultimate happiness or not.  This is very powerful and effective.  I learned this method many years ago when everything was going OK.  I never did anything with it because I didn’t see any driving need to do so.  When life was no longer even OK, I dusted it off and took it seriously and it has made a huge difference in my life.  But even before life went downhill, I was missing something big.  I was failing to get past OK and get to fantastic because I was satisfied with just being OK.  I hope you don’t make that same mistake.

Summary of Brodie’s Method:

  1. Answer the questions from the previous post emphasizing the experience and not the activity.
  2. List all of the words or phrases that occurred two or more times in your answers.
  3. Separate your list into three categories: core needs, means, and structures.
  4. The core needs are the yardstick against which you measure everything you do in order to have a genuinely happy and successful life.
  5. When you are not feeling happy or fantastic then simply review your list of core needs and find what is currently missing.
  6. Find a structure and means to achieve the experiences you are missing and you will be back to living your fantastically happy life.
  7. No matter how you feel, periodically review your activities and experiences against your core needs and determine what you can drop and what you can add to make your life even better.

Please comment and let me know what you think.  If you are having any trouble getting this to work, just contact me through the comments or the contact form and and I’ll be glad to help.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Update: I found a newly posted article on Zen Habits with a different method of doing something very similar. First: Your Feelings … Then: Your Action Plan

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