When considering developing my abs, I know exactly what to do. First off, because I know I have abs. I can see them. This is not trite. We often give for granted that we know how to make things better because we know what those things are in the first place.
But when it comes to the soul, we obviously cannot see it nor its parts.
Therefore, to know what activity would best develop our soul, the first thing to do is try to define what a soul is.
From Ancient Greek Philosophers to Now
Ancient philosophy defines the soul as that which gives us breath, that which gives the body life. Modern science offers no definition, just basically agreeing that modern techniques show no evidence of the existence of a soul.
Listening to the People: What is Happiness to You?
Personally, I never set out to find out what a soul is. But I have had a keen interest in figuring out how to be happy. As a hobby, being an analyst with a true love for data at heart I accumulated the answers people gave to the question “What do you live for? What makes you happy?”. Every answer I heard – from personal connections, interviews of famous people on TV, books, magazines, songs – every answer was a data point. No judging whatsoever. They just went straight into my notebook: Fame, money, family, God, education, sex, vacation, peace, singing, sticking to values, enjoying the ocean. The answers where varied and many.
Applying a Statistical Method
To try to find order in this basket of seemingly disconnected data points I applied a technique I studied during my undergrad in Economics: Quantitative Text Analysis. It is a research method commonly used to analyze narratives, interviews, field notes, or focus group data.
I could have used different words to label the three main buckets I narrowed my data points down to: Motivation, culture and communication. But, at the end of the day it wasn’t so much what I called each bucket that mattered, as much as the concept, what each bucket was representing.
Making Happiness Simple
However, being also in the field of valuation analysis in my day-to-day job — where one must boil-down to a single formula the variables that must be taken into account when putting a dollar amount on something (usually a company or one of its assets) — my mind naturally went the way of wanting one single formula to summarize my data.
A Convenient Coincidence
It wasn’t surprising what formula came to mind with the variables in front of me starting with the letters M, C and C. Therefore, the research I had started as a hobby could conclude, as a formula, that: Happiness = Motivation x Culture x Communication.
If happiness is a kind of energy we have, then I could summarize this as: E(Happiness) = MC²
Years later, when pondering the question of what the missing piece of the current happiness conundrum was, I figured that if what the ancient philosophers defined as soul is what gives us life, breath, energy, what makes us happy, then this formula could also be applied as a proxy for what a soul is.
Soul (Happiness) = Motivation x Culture x Communication
Using the formula above as a stand-in for what a soul is — until actual scientific evidence comes along — you should work on the following three areas in order to get a good soul workout:
- Motivation. Have a clear idea of what motivates you, what your dream is or what dream, if someone else’s, you want to follow.
- Culture. Know what values you stand for and keep true to those. Deviating from that which you stand for will lead to the opposite of happiness.
- Communication. Your motivation and values are best shared with others. So share and communicate those is your words as well as your actions.
Whole You: Defined
Knowing your body, recognizing how your mind works and seeing what your soul is made up of in specific terms is powerful. With such information at hand it is easier to take corrective action if needed, that is, to know what to do if you are not already happy. It is also easy to understand what people mean when they say there are things no one can ever take away from you.
That is what will fill you with the lasting peace and sense of power that true happiness is: knowing who you are.
On a side note, I love the idea that with a concise definition of soul at hand, perhaps the circle of philosophizing that the ancient Greeks started with — their Know Thyself maxim carved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi — could at last be completed. That the definition of happiness, of a life worth living, the definition of You are all one and the same.
Know Thyself and carry on.