What a person needs is not a relaxed state, but rather to strive and struggle for a worthy goal. ~ Victor Frankl
Most of us want to lead a happy life. That's natural, because pleasure is more attractive than pain. But should happiness be the ultimate goal in life – as the Positive Psychology movement proposes?
There is an easy way to find out. All you need to do is to answer a simple question:
The three most significant moments in my life were the birth of my son, the death of my mother, and my promotion to 1. Dan Blackbelt in karate. Non of these three moments could be described as pleasurable. Giving birth is incredibly painful – until you look into your baby's eyes. The death of my mother was a time of both grief and joy, and the promotion to Blackbelt was the toughest three hours I've ever spent in my life.
Although these three key experiences weren't pleasurable at the time, they gave my life meaning. Now, when I look back, I experience satisfaction and a sense of joy. It's the joy that comes from living a meaningful life.
Is your life meaningful?
Seven Ways To Make Your Life Meaningful:
1. Follow your aspirations. Sometimes we confuse aspirations with personal goals, but they are completely different. Aspirations are the answer to the question: "What do I want to give the world?" Whereas personal goals are the answer to the question, "What do I want the world to give me?"
2. Be passionate. Whenever you do something that you are passionate about, it gives meaning to life. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance work, relationships, and passion. But a life without being passionate about something can feel empty.
3. Live by your code of ethics. Every person needs a personal ethical code to have a meaningful life. An ethical code is a set of values that you uphold, even if the consequences might be painful for yourself.
4. Cultivate compassionate. Compassion happens when we stop being the center of our concern, and open to the suffering of others. If we focus on ourselves as the center of the universe and our thoughts revolve around how we were, how we will be, or how others see us – our life will ultimately feel meaningless. Compassion is a way of looking beyond our own needs, to those of others.
5. Be kind. Kindness is not just a feeling, it's an emotion that leads to action. Kindness gives warmth to a life. Each kind interaction triggers a feeling of connection and pleasure. Actually, kind action is something that gives meaning to your life AND makes you feel happy!
6. Be in service to a greater cause. A great way to give depth and meaning to your life is to do volunteer work. Whether you coach a basketball team for streetkids, or help out with the elderly, or raise money to alleviate world poverty, whenever you step in to serve a greater cause, you give your life meaning.
7. Strive for a better future. Striving for a better future can take many forms, but it always entails developing as a human being. If you strive for a better future, you subscribe to life-long learning. New skills make us more effective in the world, both for our own life, as well as for the cause we serve.
So what about happiness? How do meaning and happiness intersect? My take is that happiness is the by-product of a meaningful life. On its own – as a life goal – happiness can feel shallow. But once you focus on leading a meaningful life, you will feel fulfilled and experience not only fleeting sensations of happiness, but a lasting sense of joy.
What's your take on this?
Is happiness a worthy life goal? What are your tips for a meaningful life?