Dream-Building and Defining the Good Life

When you set out to create a dream of the way you want your life to unfold, the first thing you need to find out about yourself is what, really, makes you happy.

Contrary to the continuous blast of advertising that fills our every waking minute, the answer for most people isn’t found in a heap of shiny new toys. Certainly you deserve to surround yourself with all the treasures that deliver delight and entertainment, beauty and grace, comfort and efficiency to you. As you design your dream, by all means, include a rich selection of the toys, tools, and treasures you would truly appreciate having and using in your life.

But it’s wise to bear in mind that the bumper sticker that proclaims “He who dies with the most toys wins,” only describes a part of the game. When you think about that slogan, you realize that it isn’t really talking about toys; it’s talking about the thrill of competing for the status the toys represent. That’s an important clue about defining happiness. It’s not the material possessions themselves that are important, but the mastery of sufficient excellence to make possession of them possible.

If you strive only for the material possessions themselves, they end up owning you. Because more and greater possessions are always available, the striving is never satisfied. It’s wise to define for yourself what is enough. Recent research has found that once people have a home, food and clothes, extra financial wealth doesn’t seem to make them any happier. So as you build your life-dreams, look beyond wealth and possessions for things that bring you joy.

One of the happiest people I know said as long as she had warm shelter, indoor plumbing, her own washer and dryer and a dependable car, she would be content. And, having those things, she is content, devoting her energies to creative pursuits that provide her with tremendous happiness and bring joy to others as well. Knowing what’s enough for you in material terms frees you to focus on the other remaining components of happiness: pleasure and meaning.

An excellent place to look for additional clues about what generates happiness for you is at the personal relationships and activities that bring you pleasure. We tend to get the most joy from engaging in the things that we’re naturally good at doing and from finding ways to do them even better. So take an inventory of the times when you have felt the most contentment, zest, pride, satisfaction, or pleasure and find out what the common denominators are for those experiences. As you develop your dreams for your life, look to your existing strengths and imagine paths you might take to use and develop them. Ask people who know you well to tell you when you seem the happiest to them and examine what they tell you for the grains of truth.

In order to experience the utmost happiness requires the energy and pleasure of good health. So be sure to include a focus on physical well-being in your dream-creation, too. See yourself enjoying your life with a strong, fit, flexible body and include whatever activities most appeal to you for generating optimum health.

Finally, and most importantly, ask yourself what gives you the greatest sense of meaning, of connection to something larger and grander than yourself. It might be worship, meditation, service to others, prayer or any combination of these. Ask yourself when you feel the most whole, the most complete. Then include ways to create more time and even deeper means of experiencing this, the spiritual side of your life, in your dream plans, too.

Whatever concrete shape your own unique dream takes, if you build on the foundations of spirituality and optimum health, express your strengths through your relationships, work and play, and reward yourself with your choice of desirable toys, happiness will unfold for you all of its own accord.