Key Point: I genuinely believe that as humans we are more accurately described as verbs rather than nouns. So what if we thought of happiness more as a process of flourishing rather than a state of being?
I was reading an article by Jag Bhalla in a Nov. Big Think article. The essence of this piece was that we might be better off thinking about “happiness” as something we DO; i.e. Do Happy by focusing on flourishing versus searching for the elusive state of BEING happy. The following are a couple of points stated by Bhalla that reinforces this idea:
” – Many need a new ‘happiness.’ The pursuit of which is more attuned to a key logic built into our biology (and which matches some mostly forgotten, old wisdom about flourishing).
– Many now simply equate happiness with maximizing pleasure. But even hedonists once took pains to distinguish pleasure from happiness
– Daniel Kahneman (the ‘most important psychologist alive’) believes it’s logical to describe life as a series of moments each with a positive or negative feeling ‘value,’ and that we should evaluate experiences by summing those momentary values. He complains human brains are illogical for not working that way.
– ‘Positive psychologists’ like Csíkszentmihályi are less confused. He studies how an active state of ‘flow’ provides ‘optimal experience’ (noting we don’t ‘understand… happiness… any better than Aristotle)… ‘Flow’ arises from a skilled activity that takes enough concentration that we lose awareness of self and time. These autotelic (done for their own sake) pleasurably effortful activities are common in sports, music and the arts, but rare when we’re passive. Similarly, Seligman distinguishes easy pleasures from effortful ‘satisfactions’ the longer-lasting rewards of ‘flow’).
– Nouns like ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’ are too static. Verbs reflecting the required repeated effort seem more apt. ‘Well-doing’ beats ‘well-being’ or ‘being happy,’ flourishing is a thing we do, not that we passively be.”
When I examine my life, I have personally felt most happy when I’ve been in a state of flow and part of something bigger than me. Belonging to a purpose and contributing by literally throwing myself into the experience has most often resulted in a feeling of personal gratification and happiness; however fleeting or lasting. Small examples include the flow I feel when writing, white boarding and creating big ideas with others, teaching a concept and seeing a room light up, etc. In those moments, time zooms by and I feel energized and fully alive.
I rarely wake up saying I want to be happy today. Instead, on most days I wake up excited to contribute and flourish and that ultimately delivers a feeling of happiness. Perhaps to most of you readers, this is so very obvious. But for a few of you, just maybe refocusing on finding where you can fully flourish is a more accessible route to happiness than the pursuit of happiness as an “end state” by itself?
- We owe it to ourselves to experience happiness through DOING what we are good at and like to do, contributing with meaning and purpose, with people we like to be around. We define BEING from DOING!
- It’s that simple, but we also know it’s that hard (even elusive). The personal courage needed is to “move,” to take action… To take the risk to put ourselves in a position to achieve those conditions. If not, how could we ever be happy more than not?
Flourishing in the Triangle,
One Millennial View: Too true. I’ve been watching YouTube videos of a guy who often does a lot of housework in a barn on his property… Building furniture, killing wasps nests in his kids’ playhouse, always doing “something useful” and I think “man, that looks great.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my butt watching YouTube videos, accomplishing nothing, which isn’t bringing me any closer to doing my own handiwork. It’s an easy trap… We all need those days off on the couch, I guess, but I think we can all agree that accomplishing “to do” lists is much more satisfying.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis