3 Imposters To Happiness: How to Recognize Them and Why It Matters To You

What really makes someone happy?  What makes you happy?  In fact, what is happiness in the first place?

The questions above started rolling around in my mind after my most recent post on “How To Know Your Powerful WHY….” and while on our family vacation.  After all, when you’re on vacation  your supposed to be happy, right?

Although happiness is a good thing, it can be confused with words for other positive experiences we seek, like:

  • Pleasure– A feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment (the implication is that it is brief).
  • Satisfaction– The fulfillment or gratification of a desire, need or an appetite (all of which return relatively soon).
  • Fulfillment– The achievement or satisfaction of something desired, promised or predicted (there is a discreteness and completeness implied).

I find two things worth noting in these definitions: 1. Each definition includes one of the other words in the list; 2. Time and sense of accomplishment is a differentiator, both in how long it takes to achieve each one and how long each is experienced. It makes sense to me when I read it here and think about it; not so much in the moment.

Although each of the three experiences listed above can contribute to the happiness we experience, they aren’t happiness.  When we misjudge in this area, it can lead to unrealistic expectations about happiness in general and our own personal happiness in particular. That also happens when happiness is pursued as an end in and of itself instead of a by-product of other sources.

Ok, “so what?” Good question.  The actions we take in pursuing each of these other experiences are typically different, as are the outcomes….and ultimately the destiny they produce. Interestingly and paradoxically, when these are mistaken for “happiness”  and pursued as such, the end of the journey often leads to the exact opposite outcome: a whole lot of unhappiness.

Language is how we ascribe meaning to what we experience. Having a broader…and more accurate….vocabulary helps better define what we are dealing with as well as gives richness and intensity to what we are able to experience.  Just as importantly, it also allows us us set realistic expectations and make good decisions that ultimately will get us what we really want and where we really want to go.

What words do you use to describe describe your pleasurable moments? Perhaps more importantly, will what your doing now get you what you really want….in the long-run? If not, what needs to be different?

Because happiness one of those topics that we think of as rather nebulous and fuzzy we, often aren’t clear on what we’re chasing….which is why we end up disappointed so often.  Leave a comment, I’d love to get your thoughts.

Now that I’ve talked about what happiness isn’t, it’s time to talk more about what happiness really is and how to get more of it. More to come on Happiness :).