Posted by: Ariel | November 13, 2012

Happiness and Meaning

There’s been some recent positive psychology research into the overlaps between happy lives and meaningful ones. Check it out here:

I particularly like the point they make about happiness being solely in the present, while meaning results from the incorporation of past, present, and future. Balancing the present self (often seen as temptation or the devil) with the more rational, practical, future self is, I think, one of the most important balancing acts of our lives. The research suggests that taking results in happiness and therefore satisfying the present, while giving results in meaning and therefore satisfying the future self. It also points out that happiness and meaning are correlated, which means that most of us find some measure of both. All fairly intuitive results but great to put words to nonetheless.

It also explains why sometimes, instead of sitting down to read or wage virtual war, I roll up my sleeves and do the dishes. When I was young I thought the point of life was happiness. Then I thought it was the pursuit of happiness. In the past few years, I would have said that the reason for living was to help other people. But I think I can more accurately phrase that sentiment now. When you help others, you give meaning to your own life. Like those who have jobs they love, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy helping, you’ll probably end up very satisfied. So maybe the reason we’re here is to be one more opportunity to give and to take, one more person to work with and play with, one more soul to love and be loved.


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