Philosophers caution against focusing on happiness as the ultimate good in life, and I tend to agree. Happiness is subjective; it’s not a constant. I think we’ve put happiness on this unobtainable pedestal. It’s something that we haven’t actually defined for ourselves as individuals, and we strive for an unrealistic, curated ideal (however it is we perceive that ideal). Basically, we really don’t even know what we are searching for.
What we talk about in our culture as happiness is really kind of a revved-up version of happiness. It’s a high-energy [state] — scientists call it a high-arousal positive affect. It’s a feeling, it’s transient, it’s not quality of life, it’s not so many things.Dr. Laurie Helgoe, The Introvert Entrepreneur
Happiness is an emotion, and emotions are fleeting. I think a more realistic target for measuring good in life is our overall well-being.
Research has determined 6 dimensions of well-being. People rank either high or low (defined as high):
- Self-Acceptance – positive attitude toward self;
- Positive Relations with Others – concerned about the welfare of others; willing to compromise to sustain important ties;
- Autonomy – independent, evaluates self by personal standards, resists social pressures;
- Environmental Mastery – controls external activities and makes use of surrounding opportunities;
- Purpose in Life – has goals and a sense of direction, feels there is meaning to life past and present, holds beliefs and objectives;
- Personal Growth – continued development and expansion, open to new experiences, notices improvement in self and behavior.
Life is so. much. more. than just. being. happy. Failures, negative emotions, disappointing outcomes – all these “bad” things further define the purpose and meaning of our lives. These aren’t happy things, but they do lead to happiness.
In high school, I tried out for the softball team and didn’t make it, which made me sad. But I saw it as an opportunity to work on my skills. I became stronger, faster, and more knowledgeable about the sport. I had to put forth more effort using several of the dimensions listed above. I didn’t try out again the following year, because I got asked to play for an elite travel ball team. The failure actually led to more positivity in my well-being.
Even when present in exemplary lives, philosophers construe happiness not as an end in itself but a byproduct of other, more noble pursuits.(source)
I’ve been facing an uphill climb the past few months. I’ve faced several losses, some more significant than others. Nonetheless, all left me grieving or feeling defeated in some way. Even through these tough times, I recognize that God is working in my life for good reason. I am becoming stronger and more resilient. This is character building.
I have by no means been feeling happy, but overall, I still maintain a positive well-being. I recognize storms may never stop coming – but neither do the rainbows! 🌈 We can’t judge our life solely on the storms or solely on the rainbows. Without one, you can’t have the other.