"(...) man's main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life."
For most of us, thankfully, our basic needs are met daily. Not only we have food, a place to sleep, friends, we also have technology that allows us to know more about the world. But we also have infinite choices and no excuse not to be productive, creative, successful, smart, independent, strong, happy!
Do we feel happy most of the time? or do we feel more like trapped in "happiness"?
We know this, we know that material stuff doesn't bring lasting happiness, but why? What's lacking? Meaning. Things, people or actions bring us happiness when they mean something important to you.
"We need a different conception of happiness, more enduring and more genuine, not dependent on external circumstances. (...) The key to a healthy life is having a healthy mind."
Richard J. Davidson
So we can work towards that Happiness!
People argue that the circumstances, the timing, the weather it's just not right. But what's not right is how we separate our left brain from our right, how we separate looking versus feeling successful.
Yes, the magic dust is: to Feel.
"Being an educated person requires—being a full person, requires a certain ability to deal with dissonance. (...) I’m Jewish, was raised Jewish. I brought up my kids in the Jewish tradition. We celebrate Jewish traditions. And the religion means something to me. At the same time, I’m a scientist. And data means an awful lot to me. And I clearly believe in evolution and it’s really hard to get away from the undirected nature of change selected by environment and, you know, the science I do has really, leaves very little room for purpose in evolution. And yet there are deep reasons to want to have purpose in life. (...) I don’t attempt to reconcile the religious side and the scientific side. Just as I don’t try to ever argue that the scientific way of knowing is the only way of knowing. (...) You know, literature has ways of knowing that are non-scientific. (...) Art has ways of knowing that are different. Music has ways. And maybe someday people will be smart enough to integrate them into one common way of knowing."
We need to feel there is something higher and greater than us.
"Studies of our biological constitution make it increasingly clear that we are social creatures of meaning, who crave a sense of coherence and purpose. Yet, our modern way of life seems to provide fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in the group life that satisfies these human needs—indeed, many of its structures and institutions stunts these very needs.”
Anne McIlroy, long-time journalist, when interviewing Dr. Beauregard, neuroscientist (from University of Montreal's psychology department) posed these questions about a scientific experiment with nuns: "Are humans hard-wired to have religious or spiritual experiences, which are common to almost every culture on Earth? What happens in the brain when they do have them? Is it something that non-religious people might be able to replicate with the right stimulation? Is a transcendent Buddhist experience, often described as feeling connected to everyone and everything in the universe, the same as Christians' unio mystica? Can religion and spirituality make people healthier, as some studies suggest?"
So, not only we do better when we believe in something, we become healthier, happier and even more productive!
"Individuals and organizations that see themselves as “more spiritual” do better. They are more productive, creative and adaptive. The people in these organizations are more energized and productive because their work isn't solely about stock options and vacations and coffee breaks. Spiritual organizations are animated by meaning, by wholeness, and by seeing their work connected to events and people beyond themselves. "
Mitroff and Denton
"I believe that inspired leadership boils down to two things. The world would be a better place if we loved each other, and if we told the truth. If I express love, will people think I am weak, flaky, without resolve? A leader who has the courage to be humble, forgiving, loving, and therefore authentic, is much more effective, and inspiring than one who works using fear psychosis. I define love as the place where my heart touches your heart, and adds to who you are as a person.”
Dr Lance Secretan, PhD
In the book "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse", Gregg Easterbrook writes: “Ever larger numbers of people enjoy reasonable standards of living, but may feel an inner pang on the question of whether their lives have purpose. Predicting transition from material want’ is not to say that people will cease caring about material things; it is a prediction that millions will expect both pleasant living standards and a broad sense that their lives have purpose [emphasis added]. This is a conundrum, as the sense of meaning is much more difficult to acquire than possessions.”
In 2004, 10 years ago, here's what was predicted in Forbes Mag by journalist Rich Karlgaard: "(...) Meaning. Purpose. Deep life experience. Use whatever word or phrase you like, but know that consumer desire for these qualities is on the rise. Remember your Abraham Maslow and your Viktor Frankl. Bet your business on it."
Would you like a formula? Guess what, someone already thought about it:
The Pleasant Life, The Good Life & The Meaningful Life!
From the founder of Positive Psychology:
- The pleasant life: a life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past, and future;
- The good life: using your signature strengths to obtain abundant gratification (through activities we like doing) in the main realms of your life;
- The meaningful life: using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.
Dr. Seligman believes that lasting happiness lies in progressing through each until we achieve the ability to have most of our happiness come from living the meaningful life. "Well-being cannot exist just in your own head. Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment."
Make each ring count...
Thich Nhat Hanh