Live lightly Education

The three elements of happiness

‘At any moment, you are participating in your life purpose. As you pursue your purpose, at one point or another, you will undervalue your happiness and stumble to navigate inner personal relationships’. This proposition took my breath away as I listened to a webinar, this past month.

Being told that, even at that moment of deciding to join that webinar and at this moment of putting this thought to column, I am choosing to follow a purpose that might further my destined path is a definitive call to awareness. If life’s notifications ever arrived in big bold italics — here was one. While that proposition made me thoughtful, the inevitability of losing sight of joy rankled most.

If indeed, our preoccupations define our future and if we often lose touch with happiness, can we establish some path-markers that can reroute and converge the roads — as we meander — towards purpose, yet ensure fulfilment?

Elements of happiness

Positive psychology — considered the science of happiness — makes a distinction between happiness and authentic happiness (well-being). The theory suggests that happiness can be described as three distinct elements chosen for their own sakes: positive emotion, engagement, and meaning.

These three elements are believed to be more measurable and definitive than happiness. The first, positive emotion, is what we feel: pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort; a life led successfully around this element is pleasant. When we go on a holiday, spend time with friends, secure cherished grades, or win a new job, we are easily in that element of positive emotion. Yet, this state is temporary and lasts only until we yearn for bigger and better.

The second, engagement, is about being in flow: creative pursuits, competitive sport, writing, playing an instrument... pursuits where one loses sense of time and self. The best of athletes, musicians, and artists perform in this element. In this state, the person often becomes a part of the action and cannot dissociate or even explain the element separately from themselves. This is the zone of individual creativity.

The third element of happiness is meaning. Meaningfulness is always in relation to someone else; a purpose bigger than the self. The meaningful life involves belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than you. Most of us live life without realising this element interminably. The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa possibly live/d in this element; many others adopt and serve a humanitarian cause once their own needs are met to a degree of fulfilment. Although the potential of meaning is limitless, a small, local cause that serves the needy over a sustained period could be a meaningful pursuit.

What is my proposition here? I wrote about the loss of connection with authentic happiness and fulfilment as we chase purpose; and explored the idea ‘What if purpose and fulfilment was part of a continuum?’ We’ve arrived at the connection: ‘What if the continuum is made of frequent and intermittent focus, action and behaviour embodying engagement and meaning (element two and three).’

The fact is that energy flows where the mind goes. Being mentally aware of inevitabilities and knowing what helps achieve and sustain fulfilment, it becomes easier to pursue a path which is frequently enjoyable, individually fulfilling and meaningful as it touches other lives.

The writer is a freelance writer, blogger and life coach.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 1:01:10 PM |

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