02 May Why you shouldn’t seek “happiness” if you want to be happy!
by Dr Tim Sharp (aka Dr Happy)
At first sight the title of this posting might seem like an oxymoron.
At the very least, it may well appear confusing.
But that’s (at least partially) the point; because the term “happiness” is itself, for many people, somewhat confusing. A number of Positive Psychology experts have argued for many years now that “happiness” is not the most ideal goal or term to use because it means too many different things to too many different people.
It’s relatively vague, poorly defined and overly general…all of which are not the ideal characteristics for setting goals!
At the same time, however, there’s nothing wrong (in my humble opinion) with desiring happiness; and with setting out to do what you can to create more happiness. But if happiness is something you’d like to enjoy more of, as I very much would, then there’s much we can learn from good old goal setting research that will help us in our endeavours.
First up, it’s vitally important to define “happiness” more specifically. What would living your best possible life really look and feel like? What would you be doing each day, week, month? And who would you be doing it with? Being as clear as possible about your very own, personal version of thriving and flourishing is the first step to knowing what you need to do to live it.
Secondly, make a plan. Just like any other area of life (e.g. creating financial wealth or health and fitness or completing a meaningful project), we know undoubtedly that those who make and follow through with plans are far more likely to achieve.
Don’t confuse happiness with being comfortable; the happiest people tend to have meaningful pursuits in their life and these meaningful pursuits tend to stretch and challenge them regularly.
And don’t confuse happiness with hedonism. Real and meaningful happiness, or thriving and flourishing includes pleasure but is not just about pleasure; it includes taking care of and enjoying yourself, but it’s not just about yourself. In fact, the happiest people have both more and better quality relationships so by any measure, a definition of happiness should include positive relationships because … other people matter!
There are numerous other contributors to happiness but I’ll finish by noting that your happiness is just that, it’s yours. Only you can define what it really means and only you can live it the way you need to live it. One of the most common regrets of the old and frail is not living the life they really wanted to live. Don’t make that mistake. Live your life now and be happy!