Happiness is not a life goal


Happiness is not a life goal

“Live a happy life” and “May you always be happy” are some of the most common deceptive wishes due to their unrealistic nature. Happiness is not a life goal. It cannot be a life goal unless one wishes to set themselves up for a crushing failure. A happy life is a delusion.

Happiness is a beautiful feeling, and lucky are the people that feel it often. The dopamine spikes and makes us feel as if nothing is most important in the world at that moment. The problem with happiness is that it is a bolt of lightning that suddenly strikes and vanishes within a split second.

On the other hand, satisfaction is a realistic life goal that keeps us on our feet despite all of life’s adversities.

Happiness vs Satisfaction

Happiness is a momentary emotion generated by a pleasant experience that produces feelings of extreme pleasure. Happiness makes us feel excellent. But it does not last. It comes and goes fast, often leaving us with a bitter feeling of lack of purpose or numbness.

We are happy when we obtain something-a new car, perfume, garment, bag or pair of shoes- but a day later and it is gone. To prolong this emotion and feel happy once again, we proceed to another purchase. And then another. Happiness is an endless treasure hunt.

The pursuit of happiness is misleading precisely because it creates this false impression of purpose, despite not relating to it; many will naturally argue the opposite. I told you happiness is deceitful!

On the contrary, satisfaction is a well-rooted state of mind stemming from long-term efforts, actions and behaviours that aim to fulfil. Satisfaction is the long-lasting condition of detecting and working towards a purpose in life.

Purpose and work

People often want to be happy at work in order to continue doing it. But let’s be honest here: how many of us feel truly happy at work? Happiness is not what drives us to work forty -or more- hours per week, devoting an enormous part of our time and energy. How can one be happy at work at all times?

Contrarily, the sense of purpose encourages us to keep trying and failing at work. It is indeed the purpose of doing something we are passionate about or know to do well that helps us get by in life without urging us to give up every time a challenge arises.

Purpose in life, which hugely derives from our profession, is the essential element of satisfaction. At the end of a long, laborious and demanding day outside our comfort zone, I definitely don’t feel happy. I am rather hungry, mentally exhausted and physically tired. But I feel this deep satisfaction of contributing to a vital life purpose. This purpose is set by me, and every effort goes there. This is what keeps me fulfilled or contributes to it.

It’s the purpose in life that makes me jump out of bed every morning -my Ikigai. Work is not the only medium for my life purpose but is admittedly a major one, for it’s an essential part of my life.

Flow and purpose

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer of positive psychology, is the person behind the concept of Flow, a state of ultimate concentration on a task that nothing else seems to matter. Through his extensive studies on artists and athletes, Csikszentmihalyi discovered that it wasn’t the outcome of long and arduous efforts that generated personal satisfaction.

On the contrary, immersion in their art provided a purpose in their life, resulting in satisfaction. Once the painter finished a painting, they proceeded to the next one in order to experience the Flow again.

It’s the journey, not the destination. Cliche but accurate nonetheless.

We tend to complain about our jobs-how challenging, demanding, tedious or poorly paid they are and how we would rather be on a prolonged vacation. However, studies have shown that work equips us with the purpose we seek in life.

I am not saying that one should be perpetually busy to feel satisfied. Being productive and feeling useful give us the sense of purpose we seek in life, which can or cannot include happiness. But once we discover our Ikigai, then satisfaction will soon follow and remain.

Work, relationships, pets and hobbies are highly meaningful in one’s life; they are the crops worth harvesting and cherishing. 

Don’t feel guilty for the luck of perpetual happiness in your life. Are you satisfied? That’s a question worth asking yourself.

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