DO This: 15 Minutes of Honesty re: goals/action alignment

 

 

keep calm and achieve your goals

 

We all tell stories about ourselves.  One of mine is “my actions are very aligned with my goals and values.”  A smile and a burst of confidence appear every time this story passes through my neurons.  Sometimes, though, the red pill (reality) can slap that stupid grin right off my face.    This morning reality slapped me.  Hard.  Usually I just shrug it off and keep going.  Today I decided to learn something.

So, being a data nerd, I developed a quick honesty exercise which produces ONE actionable item with high probability of getting your goals/values/actions back into alignment.  Kind of like a Chiropractor for your brain.   Similar to the Recover Your Grit exercise, but this one is bite sized exercise and can be done in 15 minutes.

Backround:

My morning routine of work-out, meditation, morning pages, etc. usually takes about an hour and a half.  This morning it took 3 hours.  Yea, that is right, 50% dilly dallying.  Now I am not one of those “got to be productive 100% of the day” guys, but 50% waste is excessive by any measure.  Usually I tell myself I am too busy to do the analysis, the job is too big, not that much time was wasted, etc.  But do I really have a more important thing to do than figure out where 50% of my time went and how to get that time back (if I want to)?  So here is what I did:

The 15 minutes of Honesty in Actions Exercise:

When the red pill of reality slaps you in the face (“Oh shit, I think I just wasted a bunch of time!”), do this exercise immediately.  It works best if the period of time is less than a day.  Say a couple of hours, or even a whole work day.  But not more.  If the time interval is too large, you won’t remember enough details to be helpful.  Also you must do it immediately or your memory will start to re-write the facts and the analysis will be less truthful.

Take out a pad of paper.  Yes paper and pen.  Turn your phone off.  Walk away from the computer to a quiet place with a desk and a chair.  No technology to distract during the exercise.   Remember you only need 15 minutes then you can go back to being so busy you can’t take time to get less busy.:)

At the top of the first page, write the date and time period you want to analyze that just felt like it got hijacked.  For me a recent one was a three hour period from 6-9 am Monday Sept 26, 2016 at my house in Seattle Washington.  Name the primary activity that was supposed to be going on then.  For me, recently, it was my morning routine.  It could be a project you were supposed to be working on, time with the family, etc.  Underneath this heading, draw a horizontal line across the page and a line down the middle to separate the page into two columns.  On the top of the left column write “On Point Actions”, on the right write “Not On Point Actions”.  If you are feeling spunky (as I was) you can add to the right column “distractions/shiny objects” or any other colorful characterization of the things that tend to take you off task.

Now rewind your mind back to the beginning of the time period you are analyzing and roll forward minute by minute remembering everything you did.  Those things that were on point write in the left column and put the number of minutes you did each of them.  Those things that were off point write them in the right column with minutes associated with each of those.  Add up the minutes on the left and the right. They must total the interval you are analysing (in my case 3 hours).  If they don’t you are missing something, go back and add more actions or time to the actions you already have.  When I did this exercise, I need a second page for the shiny objects/distractions because there were so many of them.  Here are the pages from a recent exercise I did.

15 minutes of honesty page one
15 minutes of honesty page one

15 minutes of honesty page two
15 minutes of honesty page two
Often when writing down an action that I was doing, I realized that starting one action actually lead to other actions.  So for these items, I put an indentation below listing the follow on actions that happened because I started the primary action.  For example “read email” turned into “buy electric pulse exercise suit from Indiegogo for $1,450”, register for a conference, download some pictures, and unsubscribe from three newsletters.  While we all know that email can be a rathole, the depth and breadth of that rathole can be hidden until we actually do an exercise like this which catalogues exactly what happened in email. This exercise is very good to highlight how actions are linked together and which “master actions” like “email” and “check facebook” and “check stocks” and “check Instagram” can lead to much greater time diversions than your brain originally planned.

When you are finished and the minutes match on each column to the total time you are analysing, then summarize at the bottom of the page what happened.  Calculate the ratio of on point and off point time.  Add in any other consequences of the off point actions (like in my case money spent buying things that were not originally on my list at the beginning of the time).  My recent results were 1:35/1:25 and $1,550 unplanned spending.  47% not on point.  Now at the bottom of the page of the right column, make a list of the top 5 things that got you off point with the most number of minutes.  For me these were: check email, check facebook, check stocks, text people, mess around with apps on phone and daydream.  Now see if there is a common root cause, or enabling event/technology between any of these actions.   For me, 5 of the six were related to the iPhone.  So I grouped these and wrote “iPhone” next to that group.

So what is the #1 thing I can do to re-align my actions during the morning routine with my goals and make that time as much on-point as possible?  Turn off the damn iPhone during that time.  Nothing I normally do in the morning routine requires the phone (by design).  Now when you do the exercise you may have another action or enabling technology that distracts you.  Maybe the TV,  or other chores around the house, or children, or going shopping.  Whatever takes you off task.  The point here, is to sit down and make the list in excruciating detail.  Add up the minutes. Account for every one.  Note the other unintended actions ( money spent, etc.) Honesty and authenticity is the goal of this little red pill.  You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Until I did this exercise, I had let my monkey mind convince me that having a phone always near by was productive and ultimately allowing me to get more done in the day.  But this exercise in honesty and drilling down to every minute laid bare the reality that much time was wasted chasing shiny things and doing non critical things.  Some of them I maybe would have done anyway, but the point is that I could always choose to do them later.  Allowing the monkey mind to indulge the shiny objects in the middle of other time which my goals say should be dedicated to another activity just made that activity longer and less productive.  In the end multitasking has often left me with a longer list of unfinished projects.  This exercise documents this in detail so that your monkey mind can not ignore the data any longer. You have the paper.  Your hand wrote the lists.  You have re-lived the diversions and productive time in detail. You truly understand the difference. Next time you conscious mind will have a reference point to make a more informed decision of whether to indulge the monkey mind or not.  You also have One concrete intervention (which you can use or not, up to you) which has a high probability of keeping the monkey mind at bay during time you want dedicated to on-point actions in support of goals.

Frequency:

I do this exercise whenever I have a flash of realization that I am off track with actions and goals.  I have done it three times in the last month.  Each time a different proximate cause and intervention has surfaced.

Science:

I created this exercise myself, so this specific technique has not been studied (as far as I know), but this is part of the quantified self, although most of that literature is around sensor data. Part of the “know thyself” world.  The more you are honest and authentic with yourself, the better able you are to get where you want to be in life.  This exercise is similar to some the work in Cognitive Behavior Therapy to discover automatic thoughts.  Much of that scholarly work is hoarded by the information bandits who hold our mental health hostage behind research grants funded by taxpayers, so we are left to figure out our own exercises.

This is a small, manageable way to get some insight.  And it is free from me to you.  There is no downside.

DO This: Recover your Grit

Someone recently asked me : “How do I recover the grit and will to succeed in life I had a long time ago, but I lost over time?”

As someone who has had a +/- net worth swing of over $500M in the last 15 years, this question, unfortunately, I know something about.  Rediscovery of yourself is also a happy side effect of taking the Red Pill.

Grit is the magic combination of perseverance and passion. Put that on top of above average intelligence, some money and your social network and BINGO : success in life. See where you are on the GRIT scale today by taking the assessment. Personally, Grit is not something I can keep applying over the long term (say 10 + years) without burn out. Grit takes ALOT of energy. It is easy to loose without quite a bit of resilience.   The good news is most everyone has the CAPACITY for GRIT for certain things. If you feel you once “had grit” and have “lost grit”, I suggest you do the following:

1. Go back to the time you “had grit”. What were you doing? Why were you doing it? With whom? What about that time/activity gave you the extra passion to put in the extra effort? The purpose here is not to re-create the same conditions in the past, rather to become aware of what they were.

2. In remembering and reliving the time you “had grit”, write down as many specific feelings that come up about those times. I find it helpful to use a detailed feeling list like this one. (who knew there were more feelings than “happy” and “angry”?)

3. Now roll forward to today and take an assessment of how your current life is going by doing some self assessment tests like these. Pay most attention to the values exercises and strengths/weaknesses.

4.   Next, create a list of all activities you are doing today within a week that take more than one hour of your time. Here is one I did way back in 2005 as an excel spreadsheet.  My typical week Jan 2005.  List work, family commitments, raising children, volunteering, sleep, workout, etc. Next to each activity, put the number of hours a week you do that activity. The total must be 168 hours. Add to this list three activities off your “if only i had the time” list. The things you believe you would love to do, or would be good at if you only had time to get around to them.

5. Take the top five positive feelings you felt way back when you had grit (from step 2) and write them down on the left side of a piece of paper. On the right side list all the activities from step 4, including the “if only” items, from the greatest time suck to the least. Now draw lines from each feeling word to each activity that also produces that feeling.  Write the number of feeling connections made next to each activity.  Here is one of mine from today:

mgt feeling activity matrix june 2016

 

6. What activities on the right are related to the most number of positive feelings from the previous “success state”? Those are the activities to peruse to regain a feeling of success.  In my recent exercise, the top 5 positive “success” feelings were, flowing, appreciative, curious, helpful and balanced.  The top three activities which created those feelings were “teaching my kids a life lesson, helping them”, “sharing my life lessons with friends/others”, and surf/harley/take a month off every six months.

It is important to remember that “success” and the “feeling of success” may be different things. What you are capable of generating grit for may not result in “success” as defined eternally. It is important to note that what feels like success may not pay the bills of life.  If that is your situation, you need to then decide how much of the bills you are willing to give up in order to live more in line with your feelings of success.  What you choose to apply grit to very definitely feeds your soul in a successful way. I define success today at 52 much differently than when I was 30. I am not trying to recreate the “success” of my 30s, rather define success into my 50s and beyond.

Why Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires are important

On any journey, it helps to know where you are starting from, what strengths and weaknesses you have, and what tools, stories, assumptions, modes of being and values you are consciously or unconsciously bringing along.  It also can help to understand how what you bring compares to the other travelers.  Where are you strong, where are you weak, what skills do you want to build and how do you build them?  Self Assessment Questionnaires can be a good Red Pill to help you figure these things out in a structured way.

I have taken over 1000 of these things and provide the most useful here in upgraded form.  Most of these questionnaires come from theoretical academics for research purposes and often lack any applied analysis or “What next” guidance.  My “Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires” attempt to provide four improvements over their purely research based cousins:

  1. Peer reviewed, well-studied assessment frameworks.  Stay away from pop psychology “quizzes”.  Choose questionnaires that have been thoughtfully designed, tested for correlations, run over large and varied data sets, and subject to critique and comparison to other available measurement methods (and survived).  I am not trying to find the “best” and “only” frameworks, just ones that have been proven to work well so far.
  2. Cohort analysis and objective results placement.  Provide some analysis of your individual results as compared to other people who took the assessment either through my tools and/or in the overall research samples.  This is the “where am I in relation to the other traveler” piece.  Understand this relationship may be an “ah Ha” moment or it may confirm what you already know/feel.  The pay off here is understanding, waking up a bit, become aware just a little more of yourself and your surroundings.  Pause a moment and let it sink in.
  3. Factor analysis where available.  Most assessment tests, while testing a high level item like “happiness” will have groups of questions that are testing the sub-factors that the questionnaire designer has found to make up “happiness”. For example, Jung would say happiness has five factors, health, relationships, ability to perceive beauty, wealth, and spiritual practice.  If you want to improve happiness, the biggest bang for your buck may be to focus on improving the weakest sub-factor.  My upgraded analysis will provide factor analysis where possible.
  4. How to improve recommendations and further reading.    I didn’t take hundreds of these things in a selfless devotion to furthering academic research.  I took them to gain self-awareness and take action to change things I don’t like.  So every analysis section includes extensive links to further reading on the subject as well as pointers to “interventions” which have been proven through research to result in higher assessment scores over time.  Many of my favorite “interventions” are on my blog section called “Try This”.

 

I have started using the words “assessment” and “questionnaire” purposefully instead of “test” or “evaluation”.  I have found “test” and “evaluation” to have a somewhat pejorative connotation toward a yes/no, pass/fail, you have it or you don’t have it mindset.  “Tests” can tend to put you in a box and keep you there.  Early mental health practices were big on this approach, picking out the “bad apples” and putting them in institutions.  Even today, a “diagnosis” (read “test result”) of depression tends put the patient into a treatment “box”, usually pharmacological, the vast majority palliative in nature.

It is important to remember with all assessments and measurements that you are not the sum of your parts. You are not your test results. You are not your grit scale, or Meyers Briggs type, or any other measurement.  You are not your job title.  You are not your relationship status.  Many of these assessments, the results change over time, or when applied to different circumstances.  Just like your emotions change, and the weather.  You are not your temperature reading.  These are characteristics, parts, points in time.  Your authentic self is something else. Something larger.  Something deeper.  In my experience, in the search for these larger, bigger more meaningful things, the assessments can help uncover pathways, stepping stones, issues which are enabling or preventing discover of your authentic self.  Keep in mind these are all just tools.  Your analysis, synthesis and implementation of  growth/change is the most important thing to move the journey forward.

Based on my own self awareness work and supported by more modern existential psychotherapy and positive psychology science, I find that most things measured can be changed.  The purpose of an “assessment” is to calculate a set point, a starting point.  If you want to change the measurement, do some interventions, therapy, growth work, whatever is suggested by the science to improve what you are measuring.  Then take the assessment again.  And Again.  Over time if the interventions are working you should see improvements.  If you don’t, change what you are doing, try something else.  An assessment can lead to awareness which can lead to growth OUT of the box.

I provide these Upgraded Self Assessment Questionnaires to help you wake up and get out of your Boxes.

DO This:  My favorite quotes on living well

“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.

“A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”, Mark Twain.

“The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”  Soren Kierkegaard.

“Work is about the search, too, for daily meanings well as daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”  Studs Terkel, Working.

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”  Aristotle

“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  Seneca.

“It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist.”
Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

“Always pass on what you have learned.”  Yoda

“Do. Or do not.  There is no try.”  Yoda

“You will find only what you bring in.”  Yoda

“Just keep swimming.”, Dori, Finding Nemo

“The happy man is not he who seems thus to others, but who seems thus to himself.”  Publilius Syrus.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”  John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan

“The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”  Thomas Carlyle

Steve Jobs vision of innovation and the world on You Tube.

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.  However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”   Stanley Kubrick.

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life

“Don’t believe every thing you think.”
Byron Katie

“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them”
Byron Katie

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision.  The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”  Martin Tobias

“We have two lives.  The first life and the second life after you realize you only have one life.”  unattributed.

“There are only two tragedies in life:  One is not getting what one wants; and the other is getting it.”  Oscar Wilde.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”  Warren Buffet.

“Objective judgement, now at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance – now at this very moment – of all external events.
That’s all you need.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.  Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle of our acting.

The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Marcus Aurelius

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” -Thoreau

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman

Epictetus asked the question: “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.”  – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

“You are not your body and hair style, but your capacity for choosing well.  If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”  Epictetus discourses 3.1.39b-40a

“When I can buy anything I want and decide to buy nothing, that is something.”  Martin Tobias

Alan Watts: “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim, you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do, you will sink and drown. Instead, you relax and float.”

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”  Henry Ford.

“For such a small price, I buy tranquillity,” Epictetus’s line about ignoring small slights.

Philosophy,” Juvenal wrote, “by degrees, peels off most of our follies and vices, first shows us what’s right.”

“The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.”  Martin Tobias

“Have a budget for all the fucks you give.”  Martin Tobias

“It is not that life is short, it is that we waste alot of it.”  Seneca

“Certainty is created within YOU not by your environment.”  Tony Robbins

“Beating the competition is relatively easy.  Beating yourself is a never ending commitment.”  No finish line.  Nike ad

“Teh duty of a man is to be useful to his fellow men; if possible to be useful to many of them; failing this, to be useful to a few; failing this, to be useful to his neighbors, and failing them, to himself; for when he helps others, he advances the general interests of mankind.”  Seneca

A step along the path of life: The new car on your 16th birthday

Along the journey of life there are many paths, many doors, many side trips and some major milestones that mark significant achievement and can change the path/journey in significant ways.  Getting my first car was definitely a defining moment in my life (even though I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time).  Yesterday, with the benefit of 36 years of hindsight, I set my own daughter on the road with her own car.  The experience has caused my monkey mind to go into overdrive, some of which I share here.

Yesterday my daughter Finn turned 16.

2016-05-29 12.34.59 HDR

For the past year she we have been practicing driving, talking about driving, reading books on driving, taking courses on driving, and generally obsessing about the day Finn can drive herself around.  That day came yesterday.  2016-05-29 12.37.50

Getting a drivers license and your own car has got to be a high order American coming of age ritual.  It is a big step up on the road to independence.  It lies on a foundation of trust, learning, responsibility and achievement.  As a parent the decision to provide a car required contemplation (is she ready?) and not an insignificant amount of mourning (no more time together driving around town).   Finn earned the car through hard work and deserves all the freedom and responsibility that comes with it.

Martin Tobias at 16 was not ready for his own car.  While I doubt my parents put as much existential angst or contemplation into the issue as i have given the demands of 6 other kids around the house and far less money to go around, looking back, it was a very good thing that the 16 year old Martin Tobias did not get a car.  I was rebellious, irresponsible, boundary pushing, and generally an unhappy kid.  I had already been in the hospital three times from thrill seeking bicycle accidents.  As high school graduation loomed large and all my friends already had their college plans locked down, a stark reality hit me.  If I didn’t get my shit together I would be working in the damn pizza parlor my whole fucking life. I got my shit together.  Just before heading off to college I invested my pizza cook savings into a $300 1972 Ford Galaxie 500.  I loved that car because it was mine.  I was ready for that responsibility.

What does it mean exactly to “being ready for your own car” ?  My criteria include:

  •  A demonstrated history of responsible decisions. (demonstrated self regulation)  Choosing to do the homework instead of hang out with friends.  Saving money instead of spending it all. Ability to eat only one piece of cake.
  •  Significant attention to detail.  Driving is all about attention and pattern recognition.  80% of collisions are caused by driver inattention.  Even without the distractions of music, texting (1 in 4 accidents), et al, can you pay attention to details when necessary?
  • Ability to take on part of the financial and logistical responsibility.  When you spend your own hard earned money (job or allowance) on something you take better care of it, reinforcing responsibility.  Saving for a car was the #1 reason I got a job in high school.
  • An absence of clearly dangerous behavior traits.  If your child has problems with drugs or alcohol or depression or has clear impulse control issues, wait on the car.  You do not “owe them a car” because their friends got one. You owe it to them when they are ready, or when they make themselves ready.

Now I know many parents don’t put this much contemplation into what the car at 16 means in life. Plenty of parents are just happy to get the kids out of their hair and get more of their own time back.  But 16 is two years before most kids head off to college (a top 3 milestone) and definitely the beginning of the end of childhood.  How do we recognize, honor and note that transition in our lives?  With the decline of traditional religious adulthood rituals (Bat Mitzvah, Quinceanera, etc.) how do we do this?  Making a big deal about the car and what it means has served well as a coming of age ritual for generations.  Not everyone does it, but it works well for those that do.

All this stuff was sloshing around in my head as I sat down to feed Harper, my 9 month old.

2016-05-24 18.06.54

Driving day for Harper T-15 years.  Suddenly a horrific thought came to my mind.  Would advancements in transportation technology destroy the first car ritual for Harper’s generation?  How will Uber change individual car ownership in 15 years?  What about self driving cars (my Tesla is already there, but hobbled by software and liability issues)?  If technology could free all that driving time to do other things, would we choose to free up that time?  Coming of age rituals very significantly across the world and have changed over time, but I am not sure I am ready to see this one go.  With regret I predict that Harper will be very unlikely to have a significant coming of age experience around getting her drivers license and first car 15 years from now.  By then she will likely have already been shuttled around town by inexpensive on demand transportation services of all types for many years.  Why waste time driving yourself?

As with many monkey mind sessions, I am not sure there is a solution in here.  Mostly observations.  After having so much swirling around I have found it helpful to name the major feelings that arose around this issue.  The Coming of Age Car Crisis elicited:

  •  Apprehension.  For all the trips without me Finn will take.  With all the increased access to the unknown now, access to the harmful, the hurtful, the danger in life will also increase.  Letting go is very scary.
  • Humble.  By the wonderful person Finn has become, one who is ready for all that comes with a license and a car.
  • Excited.  To see where the road continues to take Finn.  And for my own next chapter without all the driving of her and her friends around.  For where the path goes from here.

Stay tuned for more updates from the path of life and invitations to contemplation.

Some of my favorite teen driver resources:

How to Drive: Real World Instruction and Advice from Hollywood’s Top Driver

Some thoughts on “enough”. 

Read this story about Joseph Heller ( author of catch 22) today on quora.  Fits right in with some other thoughts I have been having about happiness.  

As the new year is upon us and many people are thinking about what they want to do different in the new year than last I have been hearing many things that all basically come back to ” I want more”. Whenever I want more it has always lead to unhappieness. What I am starting to realize is that is not the lack of the thing that causes the sadness (because after getting the thing I have never ever been completely satisfied).   It is the search for more (or less) that is the source of the unhappieness. The key is to accept “enough” and enjoy the now.  

Last year my New Years resolution was to end the year with less stuff than I started. I was on a paring down kick.  I completely failed.  Oh sure I went though the garage and drove two trucks of stuff to the st Vincent de Paul and a load to the dump.  But I also bought a bunch of new stuff all of which seemed absolutely necessary at the time despite my best overall intentions.  One area of explosion was kids stuff.  How does that stuff seem to multiply at 10x the rate of anything else in the house?  

Have not figured out New Years resolutions incorporating these new learnings yet. But stay tuned.  

Someone asked me “how do I get happiness?”

Stop looking for it. 
No really I mean it. Some questions start out from a bad place that makes the answer impossible or pre ordains certain categories of answers (or precludes others). The form of your question has this flaw.  
Something that can be “gotten” must be a person, place or thing right? Something that can be found must have a path to it somehow. It must be a destination. It must be somehow discoverable to anyone with the right finding/getting tools.  
In my experience happiness is something completely different. I find it much more part of the journey than the destination itself. Happiness comes in glimpses here and there. Happiness is only appreciated when it’s opposite is also experienced. In fact happiness is heightened greatly when in very close proximity to fear and pain. 
In my experience there are three different modes of being in happiness and I need a good balance of all three to be able to answer the “are you happy” question in the affirmative.  
Happiness of pleasure: physical as well as mental pleasure. All animals know this one.
Happiness of grace or gratitude: since I write this the day after Thanksgiving this should be top of mind while this form of happiness is typically taken for granted the rest of the year. This is the happiness you feel when being thankful or recognizing grace in your life. For noticing the things larger than yourself. 
Happiness of excellence. A job well done makes one very happy. Doing hard work, yes going through unhappiness in service of something larger can lead to much greater happiness. This kind of happy can only be experienced after achieving a goal built on many failures and struggles. 
So stop trying to get happiness as a possession. 
Eat a piece of cake 

Look up at the sun and be thankful for its warmth

Set a high goal and achieve it through hard work. 
String enough of those experiences together, figure out how to create happiness on demand after any set back. Then when anyone asks you the question “are you happy” you will know how to answer yes.