Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.
— John Stuart Mill
We all know the gratifying feeling that flows from a good deed. Some people make lives out of perpetual good deeds. (We call them saints.) Others make good deeds a habit. We can all incite that warm variety of happiness in ourselves by remembering to offer help, or a gesture of kindness, or a thoughtful comment.
Happiness, in this way, is a byproduct of goodwill, found, as J.S. Mill wrote, “by the way.”
I was reminded of this shiny truth again a couple of days ago. The director of a hardworking social agency in my city asked if I would help her with a short Christmas letter to donors and volunteers. For me, it was a simple task. For her, it removed the task from her overloaded plate and helped her express an important message she was struggling to put into words.
Of all the writing I’ve done recently, for money and otherwise, that brief letter gave me the greatest happiness. Better still, it lingers.
What can you do more often that’s easy for you, valuable to others, and that emits back, like reflected heat, the happiness of goodwill freely given?