THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS- ARE WE CHASING THE WRONG DREAM?

By Louise Marley

I, like most of my friends, measure success in my life in terms of how happy my family, my friends and I are.

However we all know that no matter how dedicated we are to the pursuit of happiness- happiness is fleeting, real life continually gets in the way so when we experience happiness we should grab it with both hands, revel in it, enjoy it and commit it to memory. Wiser heads than mine remind us constantly that happiness is to be found in the small things so keep your eyes peeled.

Today I listened to a TED Talk by Emily Esfahani Smith “There’s more to life than being happy” and it has really got me thinking. Esfahani Smith suggests that chasing happiness can actually make people unhappy and that what really fulfils us is leading a meaningful life. Renowned American psychologist Martin Seligman defines meaning as “belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you”

Choosing a meaningful path may not always be the happiest- being there to support loved ones when life gets tough, parenting, pushing through to tight deadlines at work, being kind and patient when time is tight, sharing a smile with a stranger when you are dog tired – these can all be challenging but they all give meaning to our lives.

Esfahani Smith talks about the 4 pillars of meaningfulness – Belonging, Purpose, Transcendence and Storytelling – any or all of these pillars can help us to achieve a more meaningful life and all are worthy of further exploration but for me what resonated most was belonging and purpose. We all need to be part of a bigger whole, we all need to feel valued and believe that the contribution we make to our families, friends, neighbourhood, work place makes a difference- to give all of ourselves may sometimes be the harder choice but in the long run is often the most rewarding.

Happiness comes and goes but leading a meaningful life – one with purpose – perhaps that’s the Holy Grail.