“The macronutrients of happiness are enjoyment, satisfaction and purpose.”
– Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier
With the holiday season now upon us, I decided to start a blog series about the idea of happiness. I was inspired by a new book that I’m currently reading, “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier,” by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey.
The book invites you to begin a journey toward greater happiness, no matter how challenging your life circumstances. The book’s goal is to show you how to improve your life right now, instead of waiting for the external world or your life circumstances to change. It shares many practical, research-based practices on building the four pillars of happiness: family, friendship, work, and faith.
In this first blog post around the topic of happiness, we’ll explore the fundamental idea of happiness as a universal goal that unites all of us. However, few of us seem to connect this pursuit to what actually drives us.
Peeling Back the Layers: Understanding the True Essence of Happiness
At our very core, there exists a profound and shared yearning for happiness. In the book, Brooks and Winfrey urge us to delve deep into self-discovery, challenging us to understand the connection between our goals and the underlying drive for true contentment. While we all feel a deep desire for happiness, few of us take an opportunity to pause, reflect, and question whether our pursuits align with the authentic desires of our hearts, or if we’re merely chasing shadows of fulfillment.
The Illusion of External Validation
In our relentless pursuit of success, it is easy to become tangled up in the illusion that external achievements hold the key to happiness. Many people invest significant time and energy into climbing the corporate ladder, accumulating wealth, or achieving societal recognition, believing that these accomplishments will inevitably result in a sense of contentment. However, reality usually proves quite different.
Successful leaders, for instance, may find themselves standing at the very pinnacle of their professional careers and achievements, only to realize that the promised euphoria isn’t there. The corner office, the prestigious title, the material abundance—all of these rarely are the panacea that results in real, lasting happiness. It’s so important to remember that true fulfillment emanates from within, and the pursuit of external success should be aligned with our core values and authentic desires.
Too often, we focus on our current goals without understanding their connection to our intrinsic desire for happiness. This lack of alignment can lead to sacrifices in crucial aspects of life, leaving us disillusioned when we achieve our objectives, but success seems hollow or shallow.
Love, Happiness, and the Pitfalls of Misguided Intentions
This pattern is particularly evident in the personal lives of many successful people who, in the pursuit of external validation, compromise their relationships and well-being.
As an executive coach, I’ve witnessed the heartbreaking aftermath of misaligned priorities. Driven by a genuine desire to make their loved ones happy, successful leaders and executives may find themselves at the crossroads of divorce, realizing their well-intentioned efforts missed the mark. Facing the wreckage of a marriage, a highly successful executive utters the heartbreaking words, “I was doing all of this because I love you. I thought it would make you happy.” This sad example serves as a powerful reminder that the pursuit of happiness should never come at the cost of neglecting the relationships and personal core values that truly matter.
Aligning Goals with Authenticity
The path to lasting happiness requires a conscious effort to align our goals with authenticity. This involves not only clarifying our aspirations, but also cultivating a deep understanding of the values and principles that define us. Success, when pursued with integrity and a genuine connection to one’s inner self, becomes a stepping stone to true happiness rather than an ephemeral mirage.
We should embrace a holistic approach to goal-setting in achieving happiness—one that considers professional achievements, as well as personal well-being, relationships, and self-discovery. This holistic perspective can help foster a sense of fulfillment that transcends the transient highs of external success.
In the universal quest for happiness, the key lies in embracing the journey within. Success, when grounded in authenticity and aligned with our deepest values, becomes a powerful catalyst for true fulfillment. By understanding the underlying drive that propels our actions, avoiding the pitfalls of misplaced intentions, and resisting the temptation to continually move the goalposts, we can pave an exciting path forward toward a life rich in purpose and joy.
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