How to Achieve Happiness
Happiness is one of our life goals yet for many it can appear incredibly elusive. Everyone has an idea about what happiness means but in this Sharepost I’m reflecting on what it means to achieve happiness - perhaps over a lifetime.
The notion that happiness is somehow ‘out there’ and can be found if we look hard enough should be put to one side. It’s certainly true that moments of happiness and pleasure can be derived from a number of activities but long-lasting happiness isn’t going to come about by chasing the next vacation, a bigger car or a bigger house. Plenty of people who have it all in terms of cash remain very unhappy, so it points to happiness being something else.
Maybe it also helps to disentangle some of the language around happiness. If you regard happiness as elation there’s a problem. Elation refers to a state of ecstasy or euphoria so for a lifetime aspiration that bar is set way too high and is far too impractical. Then there’s the language of possessions. As mentioned in the previous paragraph the acquisition of stuff can certainly bring moments of pleasure, but we could extend the idea to people who possess good looks or perhaps a job that comes with fame. The trouble with such things is that self worth gets caught up in the mix and when these things pass, as they inevitably will, something else more permanent needs to be in place.
I subscribe to the idea that being something is more rewarding than having something. I know that’s easy to say if like me you have a roof over your head and you know you are unlikely to starve, but the point about being or doing something is that it suggests activity. Happiness won’t simply come to me, I have to work for it. I have to consider what I want from life that will make me content and then I have to strive for those things.
That previous sentence sums it up in a way. Happiness is really contentment. Within that context I may experience moments of laughter and excitement, but I don’t expect these to last. These are transitory moments whereas contentment is more durable. Like everyone else I’ll also expect times when things are difficult, but that doesn’t prevent me trying to focus on minimizing negative moods and maximizing positive moods and general satisfaction with life.
My wellbeing is my responsibility and what works for me may be useless for someone else. The psychologist Martin Seligman views wellbeing as a comprising elements of positive emotion, engaging fully with the task at hand, good caring and supportive relationships, the pursuit of activities that having meaning and purpose, all of which leads to a sense of achievement. If these are the elements, then it’s up to each of us to interpret them for ourselves and take action.