The most recent studies on happiness suggest that directly pursuing happiness may be a mistake.
More and more we are encouraged to be happy. Happiness is a hot topic in books, careers and the news, yet as a nation we aren’t happier.
It is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’- Viktor Frankl
The latest positive psychology research suggests that meaning is more important to long term satisfaction than feeling good.
Interestingly, the more we focus on getting happy, the less likely we are to be happy! Prime examples are parents who put the needs of their children above their own. While they may not feel as good on a daily basis, they tend to have more satisfying lives overall by living from a higher purpose. The classic case for meaning comes from Viktor Frankl, the author, psychiatrist and Nazi camp survivor.
The more pressure that we have to be happy, the less likely that we are to actually be happy. Especially if we organize our lives around the pursuit of happiness, instead of leading a life of meaning, in which happiness can be a by product rather than a goal.
This fits with my experience. For many years, I have pursued happiness and joy. In fact, if you’ve read my early blog posts, then you know that I started this blog as a way to both track and share my journey to joy. But I found joy, like happiness, to be elusive. There are certainly things that can create better feelings in our mind, body and emotions. In fact, we learned many of these mood boosters in a Blue Zoo team happiness project taught by Dr. Aymee Coget.
What has helped me to feel the most satisfied has been to identify my values, strengths and goals. Then set out to align my life with what is most important to me. In other words, to live a life of meaning. Exactly what Viktor Frankl, Dr. Aymee and many other experts teach. Lasting satisfaction in life comes from living with meaning and purpose. This doesn’t mean that we can’t use mood boosters to feel better, but they are temporary solutions.
As the recent studies suggest, pursuing happiness may be a mistake. Lasting happiness and satisfaction come from living a meaningful life. Clarify what is important to you and go do it!