This is the third article in a three part series on Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment. Part ! talked about the happiness set point. Part II covered techiques and practices to increase our happiness set point over time.
These articles, and much of the research on it, focus on happiness as an emotion. Emotions are, by definition, transient. You may be sad, depressed, happy, elated, pensive, enthusiastic, bored, tense, fearful. These states pass, one after another, with each of us experiencing many of them each day, waves which we ride above and below our normal level of happiness. This is a definite aspect of happiness, but there is another, and more influential aspect.
In In Search of Happiness Valerie Tiberius, a philosophy professor at the University of Minnesota, says
Psychologists usually talk about happiness in relation to pleasure or satisfaction. Philosophers talk about happiness in two different ways, one being that happiness means being pleased or satisfied. The other defines happiness in terms of a fulfilling, flourishing life...
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali says that the result of contentment is supreme happiness. One of the major concepts of karma yoga is to act without getting hung up on results.
These show a different aspect of happiness - happiness as a side-effect that naturally occurs rather than being a primary goal for which to strive.
I do not consider myself courageous or brave for simply living my life and following my dreams. After all, what else am I suppose to do with my life?
It's safe to say that Glenda is a happy woman. Not because of her circumstances. Not in spite of her circumstances. But because of her approach to life.
We all have an innate sense of what is meaningful, and what is meaningless. We may not be able to verbalize it to ourselves or others, but it colors the background of our minds, an undercurrent that plays across the fields of our days. Fulfillment, and the permanent increase in our happiness set point, comes not from achieving our goals, not from seeking pleasure or momentary elations, but from striving to attain something that is meaningful to us.
What else are we supposed to do with our lives?