happy is a choiceWhat if the researchers, academics and practitioners of positive psychology are simply over-thinking happiness and just confusing people?

In one of the many wonderful Calvin and Hobbes comic strips by Bill Watterson, the young Calvin happily tells himself “Here I am, happy and content”. In the next frame he questions himself by saying “But not euphoric.” In the next frame he laments, “So now I’m no longer content. I’m unhappy and my day is ruined.” In the final frame he extols “I need to stop thinking while I’m ahead.” (To see the comic strip, click here).

Am I part of the problem?

This got me thinking whether I’m overthinking what it means to live a happy, flourishing and meaningful life, and in so doing, as I share with you through these blog posts what I’m learning, and with audiences around the globe through my conference presentations and masterclasses, am I simply causing confusion and be better off leaving everyone alone to not think about what it means to live a ‘good life’ – a happy, flourishing and meaningful life?

And while there certainly are those who will readily agree that this whole positive psychology stuff is just overthinking and overcomplicating how we should live our lives, I’m convinced that the scientific discoveries and validations about what factors contribute to individuals and communities to flourish and thrive, as well as highlighting some myths about happiness and wellbeing, are extremely valuable as a resource for making wise and informed lifestyle decisions.

Making Wise Decisions

What we know from the research is that humans are not necessarily the best judge of selecting which actions they ought to take that will be of most benefit to their overall physical and emotional wellbeing.

By the very nature of continuing to undertake scientific research into what are the elements and factors that contribute to human flourishing, we can draw from those research findings and make better choices.

On a personal note, this has been a most significant learning.

Rather than causing me to over think things, simple tools like Martin Seligman’s PERMA acronym (Positivity, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement) have helped me immensely in focusing on what’s most important in my life… matching my life choices with my personal values, and not making choices being driven by the expectations of others.

This is just one of many different approaches to trying to get a better picture around what’s important for me in living a happy, flourishing and meaningful life.

So I don’t think positive psychology is about overthinking happiness or life satisfaction.

Positive Psychology is helping us to make better and more informed decisions, to take stock of our own truth about our current lifestyle, and what’s contributing to how we actually feel about the life we’re living, so that we are mindfully aware of just that – living and not just existing without any real thought or accountability for making the most of the opportunities we have to live a ‘good life’ – a happy, flourishing and meaningful life.