If someone was asked what the meaning of life was, they may say that it is to be happy. And as human beings are programmed to seek pleasure and to avoid pain, it is not going to be much of a surprise to hear this.
When one is happy, they are going to feel good, and this experience is going to be pleasurable. What makes one person happy is not necessarily going to make another happy; however, this is not going to be the only difference.
On one side, there is sensation based happiness, and on the other side, there is meaning based happiness. One could believe that the way for them to be happy is to seek certain experiences that will make them feel good.
Or they could opt for the other approach and do what they can to live a life of meaning in order to be happy. It is not going to be hard for one to find things that make them feel good, but the same can’t be said when it comes to finding things that will give them more than just a momentary high.
If one was to take the first option, they may end up having a ‘life fast, die young’ mentality. They may do everything they can to travel and engage in extreme sports, for instance.
This could even cause them to take drugs, drink, and have sex and anything else that will give them an instant high. What they do to feel good can all depend on the kind of upbringing they had, the kind of people they surround themselves with and what is readily available in the society they life.
In the beginning, they may feel as though they have found what they are looking for. However, as time passes, there is a strong chance that they will end up where they started.
What allowed them to feel good at one point in their life might not be enough to make them feel good at another, or they might need more in order to experience the same high. One can then end up feeling burnt-out, and while they may reflect on what is taking place and then do something else, they might just end up doing the same thing.
Alternatively, one could take the second option, and this may mean that they are not looking to feel good all the time. This is because they are looking to feel happy as a result of the kind of life they lead and their expectations could be seen as being more realistic.
Having said that, they may want to live a life where they are always happy and their expectations are then no different to the person who believes happiness occurs through having pleasurable experiences. In this case, it is not going to be long until they end up disappointed, and they could then look for something else.
If they stay with this option and do what fulfils them at a deeper level, they may find that the happiness they experience is worth the effort. Yet even if they are not happy, it might not be an experience that consumes them, and this could be because they are doing something that matches up with their values.
They are on track and this is enables them to handle those moments where they don’t feel happy. In fact, the moments they have where they don’t feel happy may allow them to have a greater appreciation for when they do feel happy.
So while being happy is often seen as the purpose of one’s life, it could be said that there is more to life than being happy, and not only that, it is not going to be possible to be happy all the time. It would be more realistic for one to live a life of meaning and for them to be happy through living a purposeful existence.
In addition to these moments, they are also likely to have moments where they experience sensation based happiness. And because their life is already meaningful, there will be less chance of them getting caught up in sensation based happiness.
Do What Makes You Happy
If one was told to do what makes them happy, they may come to the conclusion that the purpose of life is to be happy. However, this can all depend on what the context is, and this is why this is not black and white.
For instance, if one’s career is not fulfilling or they are in a relationship with someone who they are no longer attracted to and they hear this saying, it may encourage them to do something that is fulfilling or to leave the relationship. In this case, this saying could be classed as ‘positive’.
On the other hand, there is also the chance that someone could act irresponsibly after hearing this saying. They may hear this and come to believe that they should never be unhappy.
And this may mean that they are unable to delay gratification and that it is not possible for them to think about how their actions might affect others. As a result of this, experiencing pain to achieve something greater down the line is not going to be on their mind and it may stop them from being able to empathise with others.
Another way of looking at this would be to say before one does what makes them happy, it would be a good idea for them to think about what the consequences might be. This will then give them to chance to see whether doing what makes them happy will actually make them happier in the long run.
While they may have the desire to take action straight away, this might not be the best approach to take. At an emotion level, they may believe it is the best decision, but if they were to think about it for a while, this may change.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.