Are all “flavors” of happiness created equal? I don’t think so, and chances are you won’t either after reading this.
When I’m coaching a client, he or she will invariably use a general term like “success” or “better” or “good” when describing what they want. When I ask them what they mean with they use a term like “better”, it never ceases to amaze me how my idea of what it means is different from theirs!
So it is with Happiness. When you dig deeper and look closer, you begin to see certain categories or “flavors” of happiness emerge that can be defined. Martin Seligman has done an excellent job of identifying what I see as “4 Flavors” of life happiness:
- The “Pleasant Life”- wrapped up in the successful pursuit of the positive feelings, supplemented by the skills of amplifying these emotions.
- The “Good Life”- not about maximizing positive emotion, but recognizes both positive and negative emotions in order to fully develop and flourish. In addition, there is a focus on successfully using signature strengths to obtain abundant and authentic gratification.
- The “Meaningful Life”- encompasses the Good Life, but has an additional facet and very important distinction: using your signature strengths in the service of something larger than yourself. I would also add that it goes beyond the temporal and includes something related to the eternal.
- The “Full Life”- which is to to live all three.
I believe another important element integral to the “Full Life” is having clear-cut goals that give us a sense of purpose and direction. As Carolyn Miller points out in her book Creating Your Best Life, the beauty of making meaningful progress in goals related to key areas of our life is that it often has a “spillover effect and raises our satisfaction in other important areas.
We can choose to live day to day and feel good by exercising good happiness practices and activities that truly gratify vs simply pursuing small pleasures. We can also use our talents to pursue meaningful goals and accomplishments. However, without a higher purpose and meaning we won’t experience the taste of living our lives at the highest level.
In our age of mass marketing and media overload, we’ve been spoon-fed a diet leaving most of us with a taste for only the “Pleasant Life”. Think about it- what flavor of happiness do you find yourself in pursuit of most of the time? The next shoe to drop (so to speak) is “What do you need to do to refine your taste?” Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your flavor(s) or ones you want to try!