Capacity to be Happy


Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes about how to be happy by quoting the example of Anton Chekhov.

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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)  was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history.

Growing up in poverty, contracting tuberculosis at the height of his success as a writer, he had every reason to curse his luck.

But, Chekhov was a happy man.

His letters, his stories and his plays demonstrate that he understood how to be happy. He was most alive in the the act of discovery. He was a doctor who never stopped using his knowledge to help people around him. And his writing demonstrated his intense curiosity and his self-nurtured intelligence. He had the ability to seek out complicated human situations and make sense of them.

He found happiness in his accomplishments and was apparently not concerned with what might have made him unhappy.

If Chekhov were alive today, he would be the perfect research subject for Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychology professor who teaches courses on, among other things, the causes of happiness. Her central theme is “mindfulness,” a word that she’s made almost her own.

For Langer, as for Chekhov, the recipe for a good life is: Pay attention! She argues that “The essence of being mindful is to notice new things. Noticing leads to engagement and engagement leads to fulfilment.” After 30 years of research, she can say confidently that “mindfulness is literally enlivening.”

Life happens to us all. It is what we make out of it that determines our capacity to be happy!

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