#91 – What is Happiness?

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
– Abraham Lincoln

Happiness is a state of well-being. It seems easy to define, but as many of us have experienced, happiness is not as attainable as a simple definition might suggest. The recent scandal relating to college admissions might suggest that we believe there is a positive relationship between happiness and a good education. However “America’s elite [and well-educated] professionals are hoarding money and privilege to a degree not seen in decades. But that doesn’t make them happy at work.” (1)

Journalist Charles Duhigg recently attended the 15th reunion of his Harvard M. B. A. class and visited with his former classmates. “They complained about jobs that were unfulfilling, tedious or just plain bad.” (1)

There are three primary goals that occupy the energies of our species, namely material wealth, some source of what we call “pleasure” and power. Accumulating “stuff” is usually associated with our occupations.  However, it’s not only the Harvard M. B. A.’s who have high-paying jobs but are less than happy. “What I found was that my classmates were hardly unique in their dissatisfaction; even in a boom economy, a surprising portion of Americans are professionally miserable right now.” (1)

It turns out that the source of happiness is found in the structure of human consciousness that we call our worldview which is composed of our beliefs, attitudes and values. In America today we are less than clear as to what our beliefs, attitudes and values actually are.  One thing that is becoming clear to many of us is that regardless of what our job is, we want to feel that it is meaningful. Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley, puts it succinctly: “We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store.” (1)  What most of us value and find satisfying, it seems, is being of service to others, or if you will—compassion.

Click on the link below for a more complete exploration of the relationship between compassion and happiness.

Insight # 91:Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.  – Philippians 4: 11

Links:

References:

  1. Duhigg, Charles. “What Makes a ‘Good Job’ Good.” The New York Times Magazine. February 24, 2019, pages 26 and 60.

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