This week I am going out on a bit of a limb from what I usually focus on by introducing a new column called “Amongst the Chatter.” Basically a place to discuss everyday adventure topics that have been on my mind or that I have read something about recently and a chance to be a little more serious. Up first, the topics of happiness and purpose and how I think they link together. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!
If you take a look around on the bestseller lists and on every newstand, the topic of happiness and how to improve the happiness level in your life seems to be everywhere we turn. Our nation has become obsessed with the idea and the ways we can go about achieving it, but I think something quite central to happiness appears to be almost missing from the discussion altogether (from what I have seen).
It’s been weighing on me lately that people may think following some recipe of doing a laundry list of things each day will lead to a fulfilling life, when a life of purpose is what they really ought to be focusing on. It seems that people think happiness can live separately from purpose, but I would strongly argue that isn’t sustainable long-term.
I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and enjoyed it immensely, because it does highlight the things you can change and sharpen that can improve the day-to-day happiness level in your life. Yes, having a clean closet, doing the things you love more often and having a positive attitude will almost certainly make you feel more upbeat everyday. However, when push comes to shove if you don’t first focus on your meaning, the reason you are alive, I have to wonder if that happiness may be fleeting.
Before finding the everyday adventure, the things that increase happiness (like travel and adventure in my case), there must first be a perpetual source of joy and realization of why we are here. Joy when things get rough, when someone loses a job, when your heart is broken, when someone gets cancer. That takes knowing why you are here. Happiness is often our daily response to our circumstance and surrounding, whereas joy is our response to our position on this Earth in relation to our Creator. Someone who has just lost their job may not feel happy, but they can be joyful in their response to the challenges ahead.
You see, I am of the school of thought that we must first understand our purpose of being here before we can explore further the means by which we can be happy. People who are firm on their meaning each day have the ability to respond based on their deeper understanding of what something means instead of the temporary situation that presents itself.
I have found that because I know my personal meaning, my happiness and the things that make me happy are a direct relationship of understanding that purpose. Part of the reason I travel is because I feel that when I see how other people live, and interact and when I see what they hold important, it helps me to put a more complete picture together of what it means to be human.
Recently, there was an article in The Atlantic which put some concrete statistics around Americans focus on happiness versus finding meaning. It discusses how seeking happiness is a selfish behavior, whereas finding meaning often looks to the betterment of society as a whole and helping other people. I found that this really rang true to me; the thought of the pursuit of happiness often being a selfish response, whereas the search for meaning could lend you to helping or serving others.
Have you investigated what your meaning is? What moves you to wake up each morning? To keep going? Does your meaning lead to happiness? Can happiness live separately (long-term) from meaning? All questions worth investigating, and certainly discussing.
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Quote // Cecil Beaton