Everyone wants to be happy. Right?
We want to feel loved, appreciated and good about ourselves. Yes, yes and yes.
Our ways vary and the paths are different, but we all wish for the same result. Happiness. Feeling happy.
According to a happiness scientist Emma Seppälä, there are two kinds of happiness': hedonistic, ”pleasure” based happiness, and ”giving” based happiness. I think most of us are familiar with both.
I would be so excited if there really was a plateau of happiness that I would miraculously reach and then I could rest my feet for the rest of my life. The story would go something like this: "I studied and partied hard and then got the job of my dreams. I soon became the CEO of the company, but I only work for 20 hours a week. I also met the man of my dreams and my skin looks flawless. I have no cellulite and I'm happy all the time." Its like everything happened in a magical order I reached a permanent state of happiness. The big fat happily ever after.
So is there a way to all this? I have been looking at a few studies around happiness. Conclusions from a study done on Harvard graduates in 2010 suggest that happiness is found with a different combination and weighing of three different ”goods”.
Good for me
Good for others
Good at it
Good for me is more of the hedonistic near term pleasure and compensation. Good for others was making an impact and having a share in shaping the destiny. Good at it was defined as a match of activities with strengths and resources.
This study concluded that there may very well be big differences between individuals and how much each of these 3 play a role in their happiness. According to my own empirical observations (not based on any particular study!) I would go as far as saying that you need to have a strong presence of all of these elements in your life to feel happy and fulfilled.
I would go even further and say that with most people, especially women, the weighing of these three qualities tend to change over time. When we are young, most of us are more concerned with being good at something. We play games, we go to school and we are often graded and rewarded according to our performance. You see ”Good at it” all over. Also as young adults, our own personal needs are very important. We are used to being taken care of by our parents, schooling system and finally workplace, so we can concentrate mostly on ourselves.
When we get a good 10-15 years of work life behind us, maybe we have started a family and maybe we have started to struggle with a little voice in our heads that says ”is this really it?” or ”I am supposed to be happy, I have all that I need, right?”. Some are lucky enough to recognize the third crucial building block of happiness: Good for others. The contribution we are giving to the world.
There is one exception I can think of. I was talking to a dear friend of mine who had just been on a 10-day silence retreat. They are silent for ten days and if they want to follow the path of enlightenment they need to abide with certain rules and meditate. Being enlightened (once you are there of course) would mean a steady level of love and happiness. I still can not decide if this is the pure happiness or not? For some reason it doesn’t feel appealing to me even though that would be closest to a happiness plateau I can imagine.
I stated in the beginning that we want to feel happy. That happiness is a feeling. That’s already stating it is impossible to have permanently. Feelings are intertwined with our emotions and state of mind. And we do not have absolute control over them. Influence yes. Control no.
I'm introducing you to a concept now that I use in my work every day:
What if instead of wanting happiness as a result of our actions, it would be the actions itself.
Instead of a a feeling it would be doing? Happiness is a verb! It is about being present in doing, in action. This is also backed up with positive psychologists (e.g. Csíkszentmihályi) who have found that an active flow state is is very close to perceived happiness.
I am just now looking at my 2,5 year old who is constantly doing something. Right now she is dressing up her big red dog here on lef: Clifford.
She is really happy in a flow state as long as everything goes well and there is enough to do. Enough Action.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What could your action of happiness be today?
Renja is a love and transformation coach who inspires women to live lives true to themselves. Her strengths lie in listening and problem solving. Her clients describe her with words like: open, warm, firm, dedicated and creative. She is the founder of Ahaa Helsinki, that aims to bring down to earth coaching available for everyone. She believes in making decisions, creating visions and taking action. She absolutely loves what she does, and she is always open for women who are willing and committed to create better lives for themselves.
Renja has a master's degree in Economics and completed the Mentor Masterclass Life coach training program.
Renja writes two blogs: one in english here. And one in Finnish here.
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