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On a recent trip to the South to visit family and friends, Debbie and I stopped in Hermitage, TN to see my Uncle Cecil, who celebrated his 100th birthday a month before. At one point in the conversation, he turned to me and said, “So Tom, what brings you joy?”

A great question to consider from a man who has 100 years of experience with life. I’m still pondering it.

What about you? What brings you joy? Is it externally fueled—new clothes, a good meal, a compliment from a friend—or internally—a sense of satisfaction at a job well done, or knowing that you helped out someone in need?

Or is it non-dualistic, neither completely external nor internal, but somewhere in between on a sliding scale of happiness?

Regardless of its origin, what is the metric by which you measure it?

And if you’re a writer, how would you answer the question for each of your novel’s characters?

Take your time, Uncle Cecil did.