In a recent article in the Australian newspaper with the headline Happiness Addiction,  the author, Ruth Oslow writes “The only hope for any of us to really escape our societal malcontentment is to find meaning greater than self-gratification.”

How wonderful!

Living our lives as a self centered individual, thinking only of ourselves and not of the impact we have on others, surely can’t be the way to living a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.

Whether we like it or not, each of us in our lives, impact others. Our choices and actions will impact either directly or indirectly on those around us. If we choose and act without being clear on our intention, or if our intention is only to choose and act in ways that ignores the impact of those choices and actions on others, we are destined to experience a self centered life where there will be a lack of trust, a lack of meaningful relationships, and potentially a life of loneliness.

Ruth Oslow’s article got me thinking about the ‘societal malcontentment’ that is created by keeping up with the Joneses. As I’ve written previously, the idea of needing to keep up with Joneses is a zero sum game. There will always be someone who has something more than we do, and to try and keep up for keeping ups sake just doesn’t make sense.

To find ‘meaning greater than self-gratification’ can often lead people to thinking about God, religion or spirituality… and that’s fine, however, at a much more practical and pragmatic level, finding meaning in life is to challenge ourselves to answer the question ‘What would it take to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life?’

Unless we can define and continually refine who we need to be and what we need to do to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, we end up just existing without intention. Life just passes us by, day by day, and we end up saying “Gee… this year is just flying by”.

There will always be 24 hours in a day – it doesn’t get quicker as we get older… it can just seem that way when we live our life on autopilot, without clear intention on why we choose to think, feel and act.

This is not to say that we oughtn’t think about ourselves. Of course we need a clear intention to look after ourselves… to nurture our mind, body and spirit. However, as we do nurture ourselves, if we are also clear on how those choices we make impact the lives of those around us, family, friends, colleagues, we find meaning greater than self gratification.

There’s a paradox in all of this.

And the paradox is that life gets a whole lot more interesting when part of our truth is realizing when we intentionally look to increase the level of happiness in others while endeavoring to increase our own level of happiness we build a stronger sense of self worth, a stronger sense of self gratification.

However, if it’s all about you, over time, people get your truth… your intentions, actions and results will either promote you toward living a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, with the joy of sharing in loving and intentional trust relationships, or they will expose you to a life of self centered, self gratified loneliness.