What makes us happy?


In her wonderful TED talk “There is more to life than being happy”, Emily Esfahani Smith stated: “I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift”.

Emily Esfahani Smith’s research data showed that chasing happiness, which many psychologists define as “a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment”, can make people unhappy.  She came to the conclusion that seeking meaning in life may be the more fulfilling path. She analyzed its essence and structured it into four pillars: belonging, purpose, transcendence or stepping beyond yourself and the story you tell yourself about yourself – how you became you. By developing these four pillars we all can live more meaningfully, getting beyond just the concept of happiness.

What is wrong with the idea of being happy? Is there not a contradiction that occurs in the definition itself – “a state of comfort and ease”? We feel happy when we reflect on our path, on our everyday life and feel that our dreams can come true. That is enabled by our actions. Actions require effort and effort means that you may feel uncomfortable. In other words you may feel unhappy according to the definition above, simply because you are not in the “state of comfort and ease”.

Without doubt, finding your purpose is one of the keys to overcoming the pain of leaving your comfort zone and the temporary discomfort you go through while changing yourself to the better you and your life to a fulfilling one.

This is a must-see talk for everyone who is looking for meaning in their life, and read more on lessons from the longest study on happiness here.

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