Whether in your personal or business life, if you had a choice of being happy or not, I’m pretty sure that most ‘normal’ people would choose to be happy. But what does that actually mean… to be happy?
In the Sun-Herald on the weekend, reporter Tim Barlass wrote a column titled “Little joy to be had chasing happiness” where he has interviewed Australian psychologist Hugh Mackay who has written a book titled ‘The Good Life: What Makes a Life Worth Living?’ (P.17 Sunday May 12, 2013)
What I really liked about this article by Barlass is that it promotes the discussion about what it means to pursue a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
What I’m observing, and the article by Barlass is an example, is that there is mounting confusion and what seems like ‘side-taking’ in the field of positive psychology and subjective well-being and what it means to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
Barlass quotes Mackay “But the pursuit of happiness does more harm than good – it sells us a rather shallow and hollow idea, that if we work hard enough at it we can feel happy.”
I would certainly agree that you’re probably pursuing the wrong things if you’re definition of happiness is just to feel happy or to do things that will make you feel happy. But that’s not how most thought leaders, philosophers, psychologists, academic researchers and practitioners in the field of positive psychology and subjective well-being define the pursuit of happiness.
In his column, Barlass refers to the “Me Brand” mentality which Mackay says is ‘part of a neurotic drive for everything to be wonderful’ that is ‘driven by the commercial interests of the “happiness industry”, which has fuelled the idea that happiness is our birthright and the pursuit of happiness is an appropriate goal for our lives.’
While I’ve just ordered myself a copy of Mackay’s book, let me make this observation in advance of reading it, and I will report back to you once I have.
I’m convinced first of all that there are very few people in the ‘happiness industry’ that are driven only by commercial interests. Reciprocity is an amazing thing and people get your truth.
What Mackay seems to be saying to Barlass in the interview, is that the general public potentially has a shallow view of what the pursuit of happiness is – that it’s all about feeling happy through the pursuit of things.
There are a number of academic research studies providing evidence that while many people want to be happy in life, the way they choose to live their life in the pursuit of happiness are typically based on the wrong choices.
The reality is very few of the thought leaders, researchers, academics and practitioners in the ‘happiness industry’ (of which with all due respect I would suggest Mackay’s book now puts him in as well) adopt a much more robust view of the pursuit of happiness and one that on the surface of the article written by Tim Barlass, seem very aligned with Mackay’s point of view.
Martin Seligman, often attributed as the founder of the positive psychology movement has an acronym for what his research shows enables people to flourish in life. The acronym is PERMA which stands for Positive emotions, Engagement in what you do, Relationships that are positive, a sense of Meaning in your life, and a sense of Achievement.
In my own book Intentionomics that provides the Intentionomics Blueprint of 9 inescapable truths for a prosperous life, each of the elements of PERMA are covered and expanded on in a format that is practical to apply for anyone who would rather choose to be happy in their business and personal life, rather than choose to not be happy.
So perhaps the article written by Barlass could have been more appropriately titled ‘Little joy in chasing wrong happiness’. Hmmm, maybe I should leave the titles to Tim. But I certainly applaud articles like this one written by Tim Barlass because we do need to clear the confusion around the ‘happiness industry’ and what it means to pursue a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.