For most of my adult life, I have been teaching the concept that happiness and sadness are emotions (e-motion or energies in motion) that move us from one state of being to another and that emotions move us and propel us forward in life. Science teaches us that things that don’t move stagnate, deteriorate and die. In contrast, things that move, thrive and grow.
Interestingly, there is no one definition of the word emotion. The most common belief is that emotions are feelings (or internal experiences) that come about as a result of external and internal representations of what is going on, what has happened or what is to be expected.
What we do know is that emotions move us. They propel us forward and move us through situations that would otherwise cause us to stop, stagnate and deteriorate. I’ve always said that anger is a powerful emotion designed to shift us quickly out of situations that don’t serve us. Where it shifts us to is another thing altogether, but there is no doubt that it is a powerful way to get attention and be heard.
One simple way to understand emotions is to imagine that they are a vehicle that transports us from where we are to somewhere else.
Some experts believe that happiness is a state of being that other emotions impact – in other words, they can be happy overall if the other emotions happen regularly enough. Others teach that happiness is simply another emotion that sits at the other end of a linear spectrum to sadness.
I believe that happiness is not a state to achieve all of the time – that there is no end game of happiness – but I also know that is only my opinion and that I don’t have the definitive answer either.
What is your opinion on happiness?
Is it an achievable goal for a whole lifetime? If we somehow tally our happy times and if they outnumber the sad times have we been successful in achieving it?
I decided that I wanted some quantitative data and, as a result some more answers to help me understand more about happiness and what people seek so I asked the open ended question:
What do you want most out of life?
in a recent survey and the results weren’t a surprise to me at all.
Out of 133 respondents 35% said (anonymously) that the thing they want most from life is to be happy. It was by far the most popular answer. To all the people that answered that their main goal in life is to be happy, I thank you deeply. You, particularly, are helping me to understand happy better.
Interestingly the next most popular answer was to be healthy; 14 percent of people rated it as the thing they wanted most. Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs detailed that without health (physiological needs being met) it is nearly impossible to satisfy any other need. To those people prioritising health and wellbeing, what do you think of the results?
Back to the survey results, the next popular answer from there was peace, contentment or harmony with 9% choosing it. Love was next at 7% and then money (and financial independence) at 6%.
Here is a list of all of the responses in order of popularity out of a total of 133 responses. Where people wrote more than one, I only recorded their first answer.
|Giving / Have a positive impact||3|
|Have it All||1|
|Leave a legacy||1|
|Make the most of today||1|
|Purpose / Know Why||1|
|Sustain what I have||1|
|Write a book||1|
So what do you think about happiness? Is it achievable? Is it measurable? And how will you know when you have achieved that life goal?
If you had another chance to answer the survey (and no, I’m not writing this to change your mind) would you choose something more easily measurable?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and thank everyone, deeply, for your answers. They are all perfectly right for each of us and have given us all much to think about.