In Pursuit of Happiness

Written on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 at 5:22 pm by Christiane

I’m working right now on an e-book about the general topic ‚Happiness‘and ‘How to improve one’s life?’ My plan is to publish the book here on this website in approximately three months. I don’t want to add another textbook or another self-help book to the growing collection of e-books about this topic. Rather, I’m planning a book that will guide the reader toward more clarity about own goals, wishes and needs.

I don’t believe that there is a general answer to the question “What is happiness?” For one person true happiness could come with raising children, for another it may come as result of mastering challenging tasks in a chosen profession, and for a third person happiness may be equal to making the world a better place to live in, or having a positive impact on the life of others.

Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, writes: “If we were to agree to reserve the word happiness to refer to that class of subjective emotional experiences that are vaguely described as enjoyable or pleasurable”…..”we might still wonder whether the happiness one gets from helping a little old lady across the street constitutes a different kind of emotional experience – bigger, better, deeper – than the happiness one gets from eating a slice of banana-cream pie.” (Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert, published by Vintage books, 2007, p. 41/42)

In my opinion, there is a fundamental difference. Happiness is not only about feeling good. If it would be, we won’t need to think about it. Why should we? Eating banana-cream pie would do the job. Kids think like that. They believe that having money will make you happy. However, countless of middle aged professionals, exchanging their well paying job for cheese-making farms know otherwise. Happiness involves fulfilling your own personal needs.

Now, the question many people can’t answer is: What are these needs? What is it that I must have, do, accomplish, or experience during my time on this earth so that I will feel complete at the end of my journey? I believe, knowing the answer to this question provides the foundation for finding happiness.

Gilbert also writes that “the human being is the only animal that thinks about the future” (p.4). He believes that thinking about the future contributes to our stumbling on happiness, because we must decide here and now what we might enjoy and want in future and this is where we fail.

I would like to reword his thought; the human being is the only animal that expects that there is more to life than mere survival as a race.

Would we be happier if we had lower expectations?

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