I think everyone has heard the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but I’m not sure we’ve thought through the implications of that philosophy. I have several problems with that perspective, but my main critique is that it won’t lead to anything resembling a fulfilling life.
Seeking happiness for itself will not satisfy, and the idea that we should simply discard worry and decide to be happy neglects a greater purpose in life. It means you’re only making a decision about a state of mind, but it doesn’t encourage you to actually do or produce anything. Happiness is a good thing, but not when it’s the main thing.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is simply feeling or showing contentment, but as I’ve said elsewhere, unless there are reasons for feeling a certain way, then the feeling may not be justified. In addition, worry and happiness can also be indicators that something is still wrong and needs work. They serve as vital signs.
Having said that, I agree that happiness is a decision, and I believe that deciding to be happy in negative circumstances is a positive move, but only if you use it to keep you on the path to achieving something greater: fulfillment.
Happiness will keep you in the game, so choose happiness despite what you’re facing on a daily basis. My point is that making happiness alone your life pursuit will not lead to happiness. You’ll only be denying reality, which is that you don’t have any reason to be happy. You’re just choosing to be so.
Fulfillment is What You’re Looking For
Happiness is focused on a feeling of contentment, but fulfillment is satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character. This is a huge difference. Notice that fulfillment is a form of happiness, or satisfaction, that is the direct result of fully developing your abilities or character. In other words, fulfillment is when you have reasons to be happy.
I define success as maximizing your resources for a purpose greater than yourself, and that is the pursuit of fulfillment. It involves giving expression to who you are and what you can do. This shouldn’t be limited to careers or professions either. There is tremendous fulfillment found in being a parent. Investing yourself in your family should bring a sense of satisfaction.
What’s also important to note is that fulfillment comes from developing character. This is an area that I need to work on. It’s one thing to develop an inherent skill or ability, but it’s another thing entirely to develop character. Lately, I’ve had my eyes opened to my own flaws, and I’m working now from a renewed commitment to become a better man. My hope is that a great deal of my of lack fulfillment is because I spent more time developing skills than I did character. This makes me out of balance.
However, someone could have the opposite state as well. They could have highly developed character but still be too reluctant, or fearful, to develop their abilities. This is also living out of balance.
Happiness is a decision, but happiness pursued for its own sake is fleeting. It must have a greater purpose that it serves. Fulfillment carries the idea of being full, and that’s the end result of personal development.
It’s true that you should be happier than you are, and that happiness comes as a choice. Fulfillment, on the other hand, comes by maximizing your resources for a purpose greater than yourself. Happiness is good for you, but fulfillment leads to the good of you and others as you become a greater asset to this world.