If you had have asked me what I thought about that statement a decade ago I would probably have told you that I agree. Many philosophical approaches to life including that of the Stoics and Buddhism (just to name two) have this notion that happiness comes from within.
However, there is a second line of thinking which has been raised more recently based on new research in positive psychology. And that is some things are worth striving for and that happiness can be pursued.
My take on it all is it is not an either or, it’s both!
Taking stock of your own truth and controlling your inner voice are just two of the 9 inescapable truths outlined in the Intentionomics Blueprint that are aimed at helping you work on your ‘inner happiness’. The remaining inescapable truths will help you to pursue intentional actions that will promote your potential to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
A warning here however! Pursuing ‘things’ won’t necessarily add to you living a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, especially if you pursue the wrong things.
TV’s can teach us something
In Australia at the moment we are seeing the national switching off of our analogue television signal and switching over to the new world of digital television. On local council cleanup days around the country we are seeing pavements cluttered by analogue television sets no longer required by their owners who have upgraded to the latest in digital television technology.
I’ve thought deeply about this recently. Almost a decade ago now, one of our friends Geoff Rossiter, was the first among us to have a large flat screen television and the ‘wow’ factor was certainly there for him and also us when we had the opportunity to visit and watch the ‘big screen’. I remember while admiring his television set about 3 months later, Geoff making the comment “I’m kind of just used to it now”.
There is a great lesson in this simple example of how acquiring things does not necessarily add to our overall level of happiness. I now refer to this phenomena as the IUTI Syndrome (I’m Used To It).
What Research Tells Us
In their book Driven, Nitin Nohria and Paul R. Lawrence present their research that suggests one of the innate drivers of all humans is the drive to acquire. For many people today the pressure of ‘having more’ seems to be evidence of this.
If it’s an innate drive within each of us to acquire, we need to be clear on what we should focus our attention on acquiring that will have a higher likelihood of adding to our overall sense of living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
I’ve posted a review of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research outlined in her book ‘The How of Happiness’ in the research section on this site. Lyubomirsky suggests that each of us has a baseline level of happiness and that it makes up about 50% of our total overall level of happiness, 10% is derived from our life situation and that the remaining 40% comes from the pursuit of intentional action.
What Intentional Activites?
The key question here is what intentional activities will be the activities more likely to help each of us live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives?
To help you in that quest, Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology has put together an online survey that will enable you to discover ‘your strengths’ (www.authentichappiness.org) and he suggests that it is pursuing intentional activities that will involve you applying your strengths, that will help you to increase your level of well being – to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life. (This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as choosing activities that will help you to be in Flow and what Ken Robinson refers to as The Element – pursuing activities where your passion meets your skills).
Positive psychologists including Lyubomirsky and Martin Seligman have arrived at the following formula for happiness:
Happiness is determined by your Set point or base line level of happiness (S) plus the Conditions or situational context of your life (C) plus your Voluntary activities (V).
In this article I wanted to highlight the importance of the “V” in the formula. We may not be able to change much about our life situation, but we certainly have a far greater opportunity to select intentional activities that will promote our opportunity to live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.
Our 9th inescapable truth for a prosperous life is “You Choose!”
Let me know what you think.