All right, we’re humming now. Post two of The Happiness Dynamic Series. Last week I published Whose Life is it Anyway, and yesterday we started a broader 10-day discussion of happiness as we talked about the common denominator of unhappiness.
It seems so cliché, doesn’t it? We’ve all heard it. And I have to ask myself, is it true? Do I really believe that? Does happiness really come from within?
Yesterday I discussed in greater detail my lifelong “chase” for extrinsic happiness. Money. Possessions. Accolade. We talked about how I had to lose all of that in order to let it go, and how letting it go is what finally led me to understand that extrinsic things really can’t bring happiness. At least not the kind that lasts.
But does the fact that extrinsic things can’t guarantee happiness automatically prove that happiness has to come from within?
I guess this is where we should really try and define happiness.
If you go to the dictionary (we’ll use Merriam Webster), there are only three definitions, all super short, one of which is now considered obsolete.
The obsolete definition is interesting for discussion’s sake. It is only two words long and simply says, “good fortune.”
The newer definitions aren’t much longer, though their definitions are completely different. The first defines happiness as, “a state of well being or contentment.” The second defines it as, “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
I can only imagine that the person who had to come up with a definition for “happiness” had a really difficult time doing it. In the end, not a lot could be written because very few universal understandings of what happiness is actually exist.
But define it they tried, and certain people, somewhere, at some points in time, came up with four pretty universal ideas that they could tie into the word.
Pleasurable or satisfying experience.
Let’s look at those one at a time.
I find it fascinating that this used to be a definition and is no longer considered such.
I have had good fortune throughout my life. Many times. There have been times when something amazing happened and I made way more money than I should have, or something went way better than it should have, or I had an amazing opportunity that I maybe shouldn’t have had.
And you know what? I was really happy in all of those instances. Most of the time it was after a period of really hard work, dedication to a cause, or personal and financial risk. Sometimes it was just serendipity. Either way, I was happy, and a big part of that happiness was extrinsic.
So based on this definition being considered obsolete, was that feeling of being happy not happiness? Has somebody, somewhere, decided that true happiness has a time frame on it? Do you have to be happy for x number of days or months or years for it to be considered “happiness?”
Or maybe, somebody, somewhere who was writing the definitions actually experienced similar good fortune and they realized that almost immediately after a person receives good fortune, they want something more. And, being dissatisfied with your current circumstance no matter how fortunate it is, would be considered unhappiness. Right?
I don’t know.
I have always wanted something more after I’ve had good fortune. And what I wanted was always one of two things. I either wanted more of whatever good fortune I had just experienced, or I wanted to see more good fortune do even more good in the lives of other people. Either way, for some reason I was never satisfied receiving good fortune and leaving it at that.
Sometimes I would chase the want for more of the good fortune. And I’d usually get it. And I’d then want more. Other times, I would chase the want for doing more good with my good fortune. And so I would do more good with it. And I’d then want more good fortune because there was always more I knew I could do with it in the life of others.
And so, I agree that “good fortune” is not necessarily an acceptable definition for “happiness” because no matter the reason a person seeks it, be it selfish or altruistic, good fortune will always leave a person wanting more.
So, let’s look at “contentment.” The definition of “contentment” is very interesting in the discussion of happiness. The definition says it is “feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”
And now we see that contentment might be a better choice. To feel satisfaction with your possessions, status, or situation. Or, simplified, to feel satisfaction with your life.
But this makes me wonder as well. Is it wrong to want more for any reason, and does wanting more mean that you’re not actually happy?