I bet, if you read or know me, you probably expect me to advocate for happiness.
Here is why.
If you came to me and said, Jean, I want more than anything to be happy. This is what I would do:
Give me everything you have. I am going to flog you.
“But, Jean!” I hear you say.
Happiness is a relative state. If you want to be happy tomorrow, then making you really miserable today can lead to that. So if tomorrow I then don’t flog you and return some of your things to you, it is likely that you will be happy! (Timelines may vary.) Do you see how incredibly messed up that can make us?
I have been bothered by the idea of happiness for a long time, but it wasn’t until I started reading Satisfaction by Gregory Berns MD PhD that I understood why. He explains how people who win the lottery don’t usually have enduring happiness. And how people who suffer traumatic loss find happiness. Happiness does not come about at some permanent threshold of having or knowing. It is by judging where we are now against where we recently have been. It is something we choose. Something we get by deciding what we want to notice about our present and what we want to compare it to in our past (or imagined future for that matter).
This resonates too with what I learned through NLP Coach training. I can shift to a state of happiness through several means – creating a different context for what I am focused on, a different perspective to view it from, or bringing to the present a state I have experienced in the past or can imagine experiencing in the future. It is all about setting the terms for the comparison.
Fulfillment, satisfaction, flow, these are terms that have more depth and meaning in them. These are more accurate descriptions, I think, for the desired state we want to achieve at a personal level.
I am not interested in living in a happy world. And I think in many ways the problems we face today are created by efforts to live in a happy world. Giving our kids candy makes them happy. Maybe playing video games all day makes some of us happy. Is that a good measure of the world we want? Does that lead the system to create a harmonious flow for individuals and our collective? I want to live in a fulfilling world of flow. Don’t you?