Many Americans view the pursuit of happiness as a birthright. But is it a worthwhile pursuit?
With “Happy New Year” still ringing in my ears, I was intrigued by the research on this topic in a New York Magazine article, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness. It reported on new studies showing that a narrow focus on the pursuit of happiness, without giving thought to your life’s meaning and purpose, may actually negatively affect your well-being.
What’s the difference between happiness and living a meaningful life?
Happiness is usually a temporary, fleeting emotion. In contrast, a meaningful life is more of a constant emotion, like the difference between the weather and climate.
No matter how great your life is you’re never going to find pleasure and enjoyment every minute of every day. A meaningful life brings a sense of connection, purpose and worth. This allows you to enjoy the mundane, ordinary aspects of living, since they’re part of the bigger picture of what brings you fulfillment.
So how does this different perspective manifest in real life?
Those who are striving for happiness tend to avoid difficult jobs and relationships. They are often focused on how they feel at any give moment. On the other hand, those who are pursuing meaning, rather than concentrating on temporary feelings, reflect on what they value to accomplish in the future.
The good news is that a life with higher aspiration is attainable. It’s more about your mindset than your circumstances. To consider how to give your life more intention, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Can I expand what currently gives my life import?
- What significant or worthwhile endeavor could I begin this year?
- What lessons have I learned about courage and strength?
- How can I help others benefit from the lessons I have learned?
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author wrote, “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”
Your optimism challenge:
This year emphasize experiences that bring meaning and purpose. You will benefit from a sense of contentment, knowing that your life has meaning and consequence.
If you could use support on your quest for meaning in your life, please contact me to set up a counseling session. As always, I appreciate your feedback, questions or comments you share with me at healthyoptimism.com/contact.