In our little Westernized world – i.e. the dominant Western values of individualism, selfishness and personal gratification – we happily strive after happiness. Just last night I watched The Pursuit of Happiness and realised how big this implied drive is in our society. Today I read an article on happiness and that also made me think of Martin Seligman and his concept of PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning and Accomplishment). This, in turn, made me think of the work by Victor Frankl who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. Man’s Search fro Meaning is frequently listed as one of the most important books of the 20th century.
I also watched this video where Dan Gilbert asks why are we not happy – worth the watch – really funny and informative. This video on the other hand is of Kelly McGonigal who actually helped me look beyond my own paradigm of stress in a way that was refreshing and inspiring to realise how to make stress your friend.
Along with this I reflected on some of my philosophy classes I attended as an undergraduate student and I now lecture. This includes the key concept of telos, or purpose, as well as eudamonia, or happiness, that was used by the Greeks. The idea is that life’s telos is eudamonia – to have purpose in life means to strive after a state of being healthy, happy and prosperous – sounds great! Now we just need that 10 step, 5 goal, personality test, just add water recipe…
The point is that on my journey as a student of life I have read various books, watched documentaries and video clips and attended courses in philosophy and business and I firmly believe happiness will remain an elusive mystery to many of us. As part of my work this question comes up quite frequently – what is happiness? …Or, “what should I do in order to find my purpose (…and be happy)?” We all want that single clear answer for ourselves.
Especially in contemporary times where suicide, depression, divorce, obesity, cancer, famine, drought, terrorism, etc. is wide spread, people have a greater question about that all-elusive quest for happiness… No, I’m not trying to make you more depressed (if you really want to just feel better today, avoid reading the news).
Rather consider this quote:
“Why are you so unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent of what you think,
And everything you do
Is for yourself,
And there isn’t one.”
– Wei Wu Wei
So, to realise happiness you must first accept that it is not the focus, the focus cannot be your individual happiness. There is meaning; happiness ensues. It begs the question, what do you focus on?
Perhaps you can start by reading the Alive Today! manifesto and go from survive to alive today! You can also contact me here if you would like to deepen the conversation or see how I can assist your organisation to find deeper meaning and purpose when serving your clients.
Whatever you do; live!