Everyone wants to live a happy life, but what does it really mean to be happy? If happiness is what we’re all chasing, how do we get there? When seeking to add happiness in our life it’s helpful to start with defining what we’re looking for.
Martin “Marty” Seligman, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and pioneer of Positive Psychology, has extensively researched happiness. In Marty’s Ted Talk [below] he describes “happiness” in these three ways:
1. The Pleasant Life
The pleasant life is one that seeks to add as many pleasures as possible. Picture Leonardo DiCaprio from Great Gatsby or The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Seligman describes the pleasant life as learning the skills to amplify as many positive emotions as possible.
With the pleasant life there are also a few downsides. The research findings show the pleasant life has no correlation with overall life satisfaction. The pleasant life tends to be short lived and insatiable. For me this is like eating my favorite candy bar, Snickers. But unlike their slogan, it never satisfies and I’m always left wanting more.
2. The Good Life
The good life is described as having flow or engagement. Have you ever been so engaged in a specific task or activity and by the time you looked up hours have passed? That’s flow.
A perfect example of someone who lived the good life is Steve Jobs. Unlike the pleasant life, in the good life you don’t really feel anything.
3. The Meaningful Life
You are living the meaningful life when you are utilizing your unique strengths for something greater than yourself. An example of a person who lived the meaningful life is Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr. The meaningful life is not the absence of anxiety, depression or anger, however, it is highly correlated with life satisfaction.
I once heard someone say, happiness is not about the destination but it’s about the journey. I think everyone wants to add happiness to his or her life but sometimes we’re unsure of how to obtain it. In Martin’s research, he found that the pleasant life could not add to life satisfaction unless the individual is first living the good and meaningful life.
In my personal journey, I can get so caught up in searching for happiness in pleasures and forget to seek that which is fulfilling. There have also been times where I was so focused on adding meaning to my life that I forgot to appreciate some of the momentary pleasures this life has to offer. For me, finding this balance is part of the journey, and the journey continues . . .
Watch and listen to Martin “Marty” Seligman’s TedTalk:
Originally published on DanielMoultrie.com.
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