So what is happiness anyway?
A place to begin is with a dictionary definition, which associates happiness as an emotion of joy, gladness, satisfaction, and well-being. Since the dictionary defines it in terms of emotion, many people may conclude that when there is the absence of those life affirming emotions mentioned that happiness is not a reality. Apparently, somehow meaning is attached to happiness that translates into an absence of pain or difficulty. If you are a philosopher or study the field of Ethics, you will quickly identify this definition as consistent with ideas drawn from the philosophy of Hedonism, which describes the pleasure principle as the central motif of making life work in a way to reduce pain, discomfort, and difficulty for the “greatest good” as an outcome rationale. Applying this philosophy of life affirms the idea that when people are happy life is experienced with the least amount of difficulty, pain, or unpleasantness within life experience. Obviously, this sounds good in principle, but it is a very simplistic way to view a very complex subject that leaves the questions of people with less than positive life experience with a lack of hope that happiness can be realized.
We usually seek success in order to find happiness.
One of the fallacies in looking at happiness because of circumstances is that it constructs happiness from feelings of success or performance outcome. However, much of life is lived on a street that has noisy neighbors, sick children, grass to mow, snow to shovel, and storms that come and go. The result is that life is full of experiences that may not have an outcome that feels like success. A relevant point relates to how well-being and satisfaction incorporates into a life filled with experience that evokes negative emotional responses. Unfortunately, what is missing from the dictionary definition is a comprehensive understanding of common happiness that everyone can have no matter what life brings. In reference to this, Dr. Marla Gottschalk states that:
How we “digest” our life experiences, both negative and positive, can be instrumental in influencing levels of happiness. As Achor explains, reported happiness cannot always be fully explained by life events themselves –it is how we view those life events that prove to be pivotal. Many of us have a tendency to become focused upon negative information and events (possibly an evolutionary necessity). As a result, we may under-represent our successes and fail to draw energy from them. On some level, we give up our power to be happy – by resting its fate entirely in the external world – when in fact, our “internal script” can be quite influential. Shorter-lived emotions can contribute to a broader “affect”, or tendency to feel either positive or negative. (What is happiness then? (Positive Psychology and Happiness at Work).
Happiness precedes success in the way thoughts are constructed in the mind
Happiness is a way of thinking about life that uses an organized way of mental cognition that incorporates using “pathways thinking” to create momentum in the activity of life. Unfortunately, the notion that experiencing a particular life outcome will create happiness is conceptually flawed because this perspective lacks a consistent and measurable inference. For instance, placing two individuals in an exact set of circumstances does not indicate that happiness will occur sequentially or is predictable. In fact, the level of well-being felt will depend more on the way individuals think about events than the events alone. Obviously, two people can have the same experience and value the experience in different ways. On the other hand, another way to look at happiness is that happiness is consistent with thinking constructs, which introduces quantitative and qualitative factors into the life that individuals experience.
Think about the meaning of the word, “life”
A simple definition of life is, “the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual” (Dictionary.com).
For many people life is just an existence or a human organic experience of conscious awareness with a sort of organic fatalism that reduces life to what we have in our genes and DNA. However, life is much more than an organic existence of matter over a set period of time. Life is an activity which describes a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul” (Dictionary.com) as both quality of life and quantity of time in existence. An idea expressed in the words of Jesus that connects a meaning to life that delineates a way of thinking about life that predicts outcome in life says, “I have come to give life; and life more abundant” (John 10:10 KJV).
Textual evidence from grammar interprets life as “zōḗ – life (physical and spiritual). … it always (only) comes from and is sustained by God’s self-existent life”. In addition, life is modified in the use of an adjective abundant … “perissós (an adjective), properly all-around … beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation”, which describes a life lived with a view of life characterized by (well-being and satisfaction=happiness). Another related word that adds meaning to the way Christians think about happiness spoken of in the Psalms is, “blessedness”, which describes a state of being in a Christian life that orders the thoughts around a spiritual view of life that is grounded in a reflective relationship with God. Also, “blessedness” informs existence with an aptitude, a view toward life, informing the way behavior occurs in life. An important point to make is that in the Beatitudes, (Matthew 5:ff.) happiness is not associated with the removal of pain or the absence of challenging experiences, but rather, with a changed perspective. In fact, the idea is that optimum happiness results from life being viewed through certain definable attitudes understood about life from God’s perspective.
Thinking patterns discipline the mind to create happiness and pathways for life
Later in the Bible, The apostle Paul wrote about the activity of the mind. He said, “every thought should be brought into captive obedience to Christ.” The message of I Corinthians resonates the principle that ineffective ways of thinking must be superseded with organizing the thoughts around a perspective of life dominated by a positive Christian mindset. The idea is present in the text that suggests that vain ways of thinking result in spiritual captivity to false ideas about life. So, when life does not experience the well-being that individuals feel entitled to experience in the circumstances of life, what response should be given? Peter said, “Gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Peter 1:13). Strengthen the mental outlook is the central message of Peter to those facing persecution. Obviously, there is a mental motif prescribed: When life is falling apart and does not give you the measure of success that is expected, quit fighting the circumstances to find happiness. The point is to reorganize thinking around hope that will create new pathways, ways of thinking about life. The consistent and compelling message about happiness is not the absence of challenging, heart-wrenching events. The application is the message about the way thoughts are organized with a view toward life. The application is about how inner strengths of character are identified through hope and how happiness develops a pathway to effective living. As a result, happiness will not be achieved through technological development, possession of things, or vain expectation: it is achieved through inner development of the person.
Common ideas about happiness are found in a belief that if a person takes up a hobby like wood carving, playing golf, or other activities that the unhappiness can be distracted denied, and delegitimized. However, while distraction from pain or unhappiness may minimize the symptoms of unhappiness in life, it will not change a point of view about life. The truth is that you can never remove unhappy events in life by replacing challenges with the innocuous placebo of pleasure. One craving only leads to another, which leads to another reinforcing a life of pursuing pleasure to numb the pain felt about unhappiness in life circumstances.
What is the road to happiness?
The answer rests in altering ineffective thinking by cleaning up the clutter about how we organize thoughts about life. Happiness does not guarantee that life will never face difficulty. On the other hand, happiness changes how individual think about difficulty and what they will do when challenging moments come. The road to happiness is joined to an inward journey of the development of the mind, spirit, and soul-life. Indeed, spiritual life cannot be isolated in a detached metaphysical experience of escape from pain, from difficulty, or performance of duty. The matter of importance is that happiness is rooted in a way of thinking toward life. Therefore, the road to happiness is understanding, which leads to positive life-affirming ways of thinking reflectively about life.
- Happiness: Success and aWell-Lived Life (organizationalchangesolutions.wordpress.com)
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- Science of Happiness (lessonme.wordpress.com)
- You Deserve To Be Happy (opinyonista.wordpress.com)
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- Who lied to us…Money does grow on trees! (victoriabuckmann.wordpress.com)
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- How can I know If Detachment or Indifference is Growing within? (aphroditesmusings.wordpress.com)
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- Father’s Day Series: “Relationships & Success” Part 1 (calltoprayerministries.wordpress.com)
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