Are You Really Happy Doing What You Do ?

What Are you Doing to Make Yourself Happy ? - Happiness SymbolSo I’ve just finished reading the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. The final section of the book talks about happiness and how this is the core value or vision of the company. He goes on to talk about happiness more generally and how it applied to an individual. What he talks about is not his original thinking but a cross section of ideas from the newish psychology known as positive psychology. He has adapted some of the ideas to work in Zappos but he also thinks every individual should think about these things. So think about this.

The Three P’s

Positive psychology starts with the premise that pretty much everything we do is an attempt to make us feel this thing we call happiness. Earning more money in your job will make you feel happy.  Although it might not be a direct connection, if you keep on asking why, you will end up at to make you feel happy.

For instance, more money will allow you to buy a 3d TV so that you can watch movies in 3d. This will be fun, entertaining, relaxing and even new if you’ve never seen a 3d movie before. All these sensations help to make you feel happy.

Conversely, an increase in your salary might give you the confidence to take out a loan to buy a flash new car. Driving the car will make you happy if you like that sort of thing. The thrill of showing off the car to your workmates or friends might also make you happy.

These are fairly superficial reasons for making you happy and according to Hsieh, things that make you feel happy fall into three tiered categories, known as the 3 P’s.

Pleasure, Passion and Purpose

Pleasurable experiences are the bottom of the tier and only have a temporary affect on a person’s happiness levels. Pleasurable experiences are things like getting a pay rise or shopping (retail therapy) . Winning the lottery could even be classified like this. The thing they all have in common is a “happiness high”. While you are high you feel happy but after a period of time you come down and the happiness fades. In shopping terms this could be described as buyers remorse.

Pursuing pleasurable experiences all your life is not really the answer to achieving lasting happiness because it isn’t sustainable in the long run. History has taught us this from the extravagances of Roman  Emperors through to the excesses of contemporary rock stars. Inevitably it ends in tears or even worse in most cases.

The next level is passion. Passion revolves around doing things that you love. You feel happy when  you perform to the best of your ability at the most appropriate time. A sporting analogy best describes this. In soccer, if you volley a crossed ball into the top corner of the net to score a wonder goal. You see it happen in slow motion but in fact it happens in an instant. You are so engaged in the activity that nothing else seems to matter – this is a form of happiness.

Again this can be a fleeting sense of happiness but some people can turn a life into a passionate affair to do or achieve something.

The best way to achieve lasting happiness is to find a higher purpose. This means to be part of something bigger than yourself that has a profound meaning to you. This could be religion or even an ideology. I imagine having children could be this higher purpose for some people. Others might  find purpose in helping other people or standing up for a cause. Fred Hollows saved the sight of thousands  of people and set up a foundation to provide eye care to underprivileged people. This was a purpose that he spent most of his time on.

Summary

Hseih claims that most people start the wrong way around when it comes to finding happiness. The start with pleasurable experiences hoping to work their way up to finding a purpose. He claims they should strive to find their purpose first and then layer the others over the sense of purpose or forgo them completely.

Whilst this is fine on paper, I think most people can’t do this. People have to live a little to appreciate what it’s all about – what their purpose is or even if they think having a purpose is valid. So what are you doing to make yourself feel happy ? Will it last and could you be doing something that will bring more lasting happiness in the future ?

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