The Elusive ‘Happiness’

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Are you happy? Is your life uplifting, inspiring and joyful? If not or unsure, allow me to share a few things about how to make your life delightful.

As part of my research for my books and articles on meaningful purpose psychology (logoteleology) I continually study Imagerelevant topics to strengthen the validity and reliability of the science, which includes the subject of happiness. Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP) is the scientific study of the meanings that enable individuals and communities to thrive and to succeed.

According to MPP, one of the Five Meaningful Strivings – or meaningful states that we yearn for — is happiness. The good news is that during the last few decades social scientists have been able to deepen our understanding of this feeling, and provided us with practical tools and methods to make us happier. But, unfortunately, as the colloquial expression goes, many “didn’t get the memo.” In other words, genuine and lasting happiness is still an elusive hope for many. Why is this so?

Let’s start by defining ‘happiness’ and its fit in Logoteleology’s Five Meaningful Life Strivings.

What is ‘happiness’?

Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP) defines happiness as a long-lasting mood that reflects a content and joyful state of mind. Because we all go through short-term episodic sensitive highs and lows, we define and measure happiness as a steady and long-term affective state of life (i.e., mood). In MPP, the state of happiness is primarily the outcome of love and peace of mind; and engaging and succeeding in interesting tasks. I already explained on a previous blog, “What is Meaningful, and why knowing matters?”, what the role of happiness is in the Five Meaningful Life Strivings. However, let’s do a quick review.

The Five Meaningful Life Strivings

Meaningful Purpose Psychology embraces Viktor Frankl’s proposition that people yearn and strive for meaning. To be more exact, humans yearn for and strive for what is meaningful. Supported by strong empirical research, Logoteleology’s Five Meaningful Life Strivings are:

    • Love / Care

— a want and need to give and receive love, attention and concern. Practicing self-acceptance and self-compassion. Being other-oriented, sensible, caring, and empathic

    • Peace, and peace of mind

— experiencing harmony, trust, friendship and goodwill with, through and for others

    • Happiness

— an extended mood of joy, gladness and contentment

    • Interest

— experiencing curiosity, and building tangible and intangible things for positive use and for the well-being of society

    • Prosperity

— enjoying forward movement, actualization, achievement, growth, success and affluence

The Meaningful Path

Our findings define the meaningful path as one that starts by loving and caring for others. Love is a Imageprecondition to peace. It is the combined presence of the states of love and peace that leads to happiness. In turn, having a happy disposition creates conditions where we can learn and apply competence and curiosity; and to enjoy and appreciate all that life has to offer. For instance, interest includes engaging in intrinsic stimulating work (e.g. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’), interacting with interesting and fun people, enjoying visits to historical and beautiful sites, working on fascinating projects, engaging on fun hobbies and entertainment, etc. Interest too can make people happy. Living an interesting life also leads to growth and fulfillment, can lead to financial prosperity, and an overall sense of forward movement. Finally, according to Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, currently Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention, cognition and action, and that they build physical, intellectual and social resources”. Love, peace and happiness are positive feelings. Again, the evidence validating the Five Meaningful Life Strivings is vast.

The Meaningless Path

On the other hand, the meaningless path starts when people value objects over people. For instance, the proof is overwhelming that other things being equal, “people who care more about money are less happy”.[1][2] Wealth is not the problem; rather it is the pursuit of wealth as a primary life goal and matter of importance.

The findings by the Earth Institute of Columbia University in New York reported:

“While higher income may raise happiness to some extent, the quest for higher income may actually reduce Imageone’s happiness. In other words, it may be nice to have more money but not so nice to crave it. Psychologists have found repeatedly that individuals who put a high premium on higher incomes generally are less happy and more vulnerable to other psychological ills than individuals who do not crave higher incomes.” [3]

On the other hand, according to The World Happiness Report[4], “when people give money they experience a positive reward.” On page 72 of the same report the authors’ state:

“There is of course plenty of evidence that people who care more about others are typically happier than those who care more about themselves. But does that mean that altruism increases happiness in a causal sense? Evidence of volunteering and on giving money suggests that it does.”

Forbe’s Christopher Helman, reporting on the world’s happiest and saddest countries, stated:

“So who’s the happiest? As has been the case the past five years, that distinction goes to countries that enjoy peace, freedom, good healthcare, quality education, a functioning political system and plenty of opportunity: Norway, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand.

The saddest, least prosperous? War-ravaged countries under the thumb of greedy despots and theocrats, where freedom of expression is limited, education nonexistent, violence the norm: Chad, Congo, Central African Republic, Afghanistan and Yemen.” [5]

Joseph Brean, on a September 9, 2013 article titled, Is the world becoming a happier place? Contentment has nudged up around the globe, UN report says, published on the National Post, shared a sad commentary of our progress toward making our planet a happier place.

“Despite the obvious detrimental happiness impacts of the 2007-08 financial crisis, the world has become a slightly happier and more generous place over the past five years,” the report reads. “For the world as a whole, there was an insignificant 0.5% increase.”[6]

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  — Gandhi

Do we need more evidence?

As I have stated on previous posts, Meaningful Purpose Psychology came to being to study and resolve a fundamental existential problem. I quote from my book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose:

“Mankind, I concluded, does not suffer from a lack of answers.

Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.”

I have dedicated my life to study this phenomenon; and more important, to help individuals, groups and organizations understand how to stop self-inflicted misery, mediocrity, and unhappiness. The unhappiness problems affect us all at global, national, organizational, community, group and individual levels. As was concluded by the World Happiness Report,

“We increasingly understand that we need a very different model of humanity,….”

Meaningful Purpose Psychology is committed to contribute practical solutions for a more humane and meaningful model of humanity – not just by leveraging the obvious evidence of what leads to meaningful happiness – but on ways to implement and give permanence to meaningful solutions. While we continue to encourage further research, the propositions of Meaningful Purpose Psychology continue to find empirical and anecdotal validity through research, and as reported by our coachees, our client leaders in organizations, as well as our growing alumni of Meaningful Purpose Laboratories.

Why is happiness elusive to so many?

As corroborated by empirical research and other sources, unhappiness is the consequence of choosing the Imagemeaningless path. Rather than embracing and following the Five Meaningful Life Strivings in sequence – caring for self and others, fostering peace and happy states, encouraging creativity, interest and challenge, as well as prosperity — too many are choosing the path to misery, mediocrity, and missed opportunity. Countless are unhappy because they have not determined and committed to a meaningful life purpose that includes being happy and bringing happiness to others. Until we mean to be meaningfully blissful, happiness will be elusive.

I made the choice to be meaningful and to be happy. What about you? Are you happy?

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” ― Viktor Frankl

Additional Resources

https://authorluismarrero.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/what-is-meaningful-and-why-knowing-matters/

Marrero, Luis A. The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology. Bloomington: IUniverse LLC. 2013.

Cshikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow. New York: Happerperennial. 1990

[1] Konow, James, and Joseph Earley, “The Hedonistic Paradox: Is homo economicus happier?” Journal of Public Economics 92 (2008) 1 -33.

[2] http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2012/World%20Happiness%20Report.pdf

[3] Ibid, page 5

[4] Ibid, page 73

[5]http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/10/29/the-worlds-happiest-and-saddest-countries-2013/

[6]http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/09/world-happiness-report/

Copyright 2014. Luis A. Marrero, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

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4 thoughts on “The Elusive ‘Happiness’

  1. Pingback: Why Happiness Matters | Garland Journal

  2. Pingback: Je Suis Quoi? | authorluismarrero

  3. Pingback: The ‘Meaning’ of the 2016 Presidential Election | authorluismarrero

  4. Pingback: A Psychological Definition for “Successful Living” | authorluismarrero

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