Shards of Consciousness

Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment - Part III

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.

This week Liz Strauss has been interviewing Glenda Watson Hyatt. Glenda is doing a virtual tour for her new book, I'll Do It Myself. Glenda has cerebral palsy. In the interview Glenda says

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?

2 Pingbacks to Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment - Part III

  • [...] I would also like to thank Rick Cockrum for the mention in his blog post Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment - Part III. Yes Rick, I am a happy woman. I am at a point in my life where I am content and fulfilled; it is a peaceful feeling. [...]
  • [...] Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment - Part III I talked about happiness being a side effect that naturally occurs rather than being a primary goal [...]

2 Responses to Happiness, Emotion, and Fulfillment - Part III

  • We all have an innate sense of what is meaningful, and what is meaningless.

    Hi Rick,
    I read all three parts of this and I throrough enjoyed it -- both the writing and the thinking. Sometimes I think happiness is something we recognize when we look back upon, not when we're actually living it. It's such quiet emotion. So much of it is wrapped around the idea of being content. . . .

  • Hi Liz. Happy Weekend!

    I like contentment, too, and you're right about happiness only being recognized in hindsight too often.

    The trick is learning contentment, while continuing to strive.

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