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Happiness isn’t just a fleeting emotion. Get ready to broaden your thinking about the pursuit of happiness.
We’re all familiar with the standard definition of “happy.” Dictionary.com defines it as 1) an array of emotions – delighted, pleased, or glad – as in “I’m happy to meet you” and 2) characterized by pleasure, contentment or joy, as in “My happy place is on the beach at sunset.”
My personal view of happiness goes much deeper than feelings of delight or contentment. It also includes:
- Making a meaningful contribution to the world,
- Expressing myself through my unique talents, skills, and strengths,
- Connecting with others in deep, satisfying relationships, and
- Accomplishing everything possible.
Happiness means flourishing. According to science, these aren’t just ideals or nice-to-haves. They are the building blocks of flourishing individuals and organizations.
The five building blocks are 1) positivity and the experience of positive emotions, 2) engagement, 3) positive relationships, 4) meaning and purpose, and 5) achievement.
Positive emotions open our hearts and minds, enable learning, and boost creativity.
Engagement creates peak performance and experiences.
Positive relationships provide acceptance, support, and a sense of belonging.
Meaning and purpose connect us with something bigger than ourselves.
Achievement enables mastery, using our unique strengths, skills, and talents.
These building blocks work together to form a strong foundation of happiness and flourishing. Let me demonstrate with an example from my own life: publishing this blog.
Of course, my primary goal in publishing this blog is to help you cultivate happiness in your life! But I’ll explain how it also cultivates happiness in mine.
By publishing this blog, I’m able to:
- Experience positive emotions when I create new content, read your comments, and watch visitor stats increase. Publishing this blog is a source of inspiration, joy, gratitude, and hope for me.
- Get into “the zone” while writing new blog posts. Publishing this blog engages me fully.
- Build relationships with new readers and deepen relationships with clients, colleagues, family, and friends, as we exchange ideas and learn new things from one another. Publishing this blog deepens my relationships.
- Connect with a purpose that’s bigger than me – a movement to help other individuals and organizations flourish. Publishing this blog is personally meaningful and promotes a higher purpose.
- Hone my writing and critical thinking skills, and utilize my signature strengths of creativity, love of learning, and humor. Publishing this blog allows me to use my unique talents and skills to build mastery in applying Positive Psychology knowledge and tools.
You can see how happiness goes way beyond “I’m happy to meet you.” Cultivating happiness is like putting deposits into a bank account. The greater the deposits, the bigger the balance. The bigger the balance, the larger the cushion when withdrawals are made. Withdrawals, of course, are daily stresses and adversity.
This framework for understanding happiness is empowering. It demonstrates that we have a large measure of control over whether we flourish or not, through daily choices and actions to cultivate positive emotions and relationships, engagement, meaning, and achievement.
Maybe one day, the Dictionary.com definition of happiness will be updated. In the meantime, take a moment to consider your own views on happiness.
What are you doing right now to cultivate happiness in your life?
With gratitude for putting happiness first,
Csiksentmihalyi, Mihaly (1999). If We’re So Rich, Why Aren’t We Happy? American Psychologist.
Fredrickson, Barbara (2009). Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the 3:1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Seligman, Martin (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. New York: Free Press.