“How’s life?” is the introductory phrase usually spoken with the intent there will be no answer. However, let’s imagine the question is genuinely asked anticipating an honest answer: “How’s life…is it happy, pleasant, good, or maybe even meaningful?”
Martin Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, writes of three forms of happiness:
1. Pleasant Life: a life full of positive emotion about the past, present, or future
2. Good Life: a life where you are using your “signature strengths” – those things at which you are good.
3. Meaningful Life: knowing what your highest strengths are and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are.
To Whom Should I Ask The Question?
To Myself: It’s well worth spending some quiet time in solitude reflecting on the health of your soul. Maybe it’s on the deck, a coffee shop, or the park this summer. “How’s my life?” It may lead to a variety of responses: sadness, confession, gratitude, et cetera. Wherever it takes me, it’s worth noticing as I realize that others cannot answer this question for me. The gift I give myself is the answer to the question.
To Others: I remind myself that as I greet people for the first time it may be better to simply say, “Hello!” than ask the question, “How’s life?” For me, it’s a more honest reflection. When the opportunity affords itself for the “How’s life?” question – and it often does – it flows more genuinely. More importantly than asking the question is the answer. This is where it takes intentional effort on my part to actually listen: to hear what is being said, to be attentive to the emotions, and to decipher if the person wants to engage even further. Sounds elementary? It may be, but I need a reminder of this Primer on a regular basis.
Let me know how you’re doing…