Have you ever heard:
“As soon as I get that promotion, I’ll be happy!”
“If only my love would ask me to get married, my life would be complete!”
“When I finally retire from this rat-race, I will live the good life and be happy!”
The Misconception of Happiness
Perhaps you have even said these statements yourself, or at least thought them to yourself. Many us live our lives in the “pursuit of happiness” because we are free to do so, but we never feel like we get there. If we do reach the pinnacle of happiness, it is often fleeting and hollow. Perhaps that is why so many people don’t feel like they are happy or even suffer from depression. Some of us seem to be under the mis-guided notion that we deserve to be happy and everyone else should make sure we are. We have set up an expectation that is not likely to come true and is dependent on other people to make it happen.
In his book “The Happiness Advantage”, Shawn Achor explains a better definition of Happiness. I fully suggest you read the entire book yourself, but a passage under Principle #1 reads “Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology, has broken it down into three, measurable components: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. His studies have confirmed (though most of us know this intuitively) that people who pursue only pleasure experience only part of the benefits happiness can bring, while those who pursue all three routes lead the fullest lives. “
The Road to Happiness
Pleasure is often gratifying, but sometimes fleeting. If you only define happiness as pleasure, you are going to be unhappy the majority of the time. Happiness can be felt when we help others feel happy. It is not just about selfish gratification.
Engagement is happiness derived from engagement with others in fun activities, common work tasks or even community projects that help other people. There is joy you can experience while engaged in a common project.
Meaning, the most gratifying form of happiness is a much higher level of this feeling and goes beyond just the end result. Shawn states his personal definition: “happiness is joy we feel striving after our potential”. In other words, happiness is not a destination but rather a feeling we can hold onto during the entire journey. How can we add value to others lives?
Shawn continues to provide many scientific studies that prove people who are happy and look forward to positive outcomes often out perform their “Negative-Nellie” counterparts. The studies prove that belief in yourself and focusing on your strengths as you work on accomplishing your goals will allow you to achieve better outcomes.
Make a decision to “be happy” all the time whether you enjoy the task or not. Focus on the joy you feel knowing you are reaching for your highest potential.
A few suggestions of daily activities from “The Happiness Advantage” to help you feel positive and happy
- Look Forward to something
- Commit conscious acts of kindness
- Infuse positivity
- Spend money on experiences (not stuff)
- Exercise your signature strength