Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Another Path to Happiness

 

  

 

 

ANOTHER  PATH TO HAPPINESS

 

You may have heard about the "me-me-me" culture, looking for gratification and pleasure by satisfying self-centered needs and wishes. Today we also see the "I culture" when you lust after your next iPhone, iPad or iPod, using the momentary distractions of electronic media to attempt to satisfy your deeper longings. Today I'm writing about "I" approach to life: I can live my life according to my values, meaning and purpose. Research has shown that coherent beliefs and values about a higher purpose and meaning of life are crucial to the deep inner peace that we call true happiness.  When you can find your passion and live a life of purpose, you will find yourself with positive anticipation, a smile on your face, satisfying relationships, good health and well-being.

 

To make my point, let's look at alternative ways of being in the world. Acting solely in your self-interest may bring you temporary gratifications. As in the old saying, you may win the battle but will lose the war. Grasping self-centered advantages will alienate others and eventually earn you only social isolation. Another approach would be a passionless, uninspired, bored and resigned approach to life. You may plod through life but will end up in depression. Another approach is seeking external fame, money or success. Whether these goals are achieved or not, people inevitably end up feeling empty inside.  You can't buy happiness; you must find it inside.

 

In my last article I highlighted the book "Happy for No Reason" by Marcie Shimoff. In her interviews with happy people she found that, "They live inspired, moment to moment, by a sense of purpose and meaning... people who are deeply committed to whatever gives their life meaning are much happier… when people live with a sense of purpose, no matter how big or small, they live longer and healthier lives." In that article I discussed the importance of understanding expansion versus contraction. When you visualize living a meaningful life, you will feel a positive and passionate expansion into love, fulfillment, gratitude, empathy and altruism. Contraction would be going through the motions of life without passion, feeling unfulfilled as you search for external signs of success.

 

Robert Byrne tells us, "The purpose of life is a life of purpose." What is your purpose in life? What are your values and passions? If you can merge these with your work situation, you will be among the fortunate 20% who rate themselves as passionate about their work.  I do feel fortunate that I am able to earn an income practicing my love of helping people. Even better, I can combine my love of gardening and nature in my Forest Garden psychology office. But it has been a long road toward this end. In sixth grade we had to begin to choose our professional aspirations and I actually chose psychologist! You can set your goals in this direction and do your best to attain satisfying and meaningful employment. Even when most of your work activities are outside your interests, you can cultivate those parts of your job that are meaningful to you. Many people work to support the family they love.  An additional option is to practice your deeper purposes in life outside your work hours. Some of us have not yet identified our purpose or passion in life. Shimoff provides an exercise on "Identifying Your Passions," page 227. A website, www.thepassiontest.com, provides additional assistance.

 

If you want to continue reading about happiness or other psychological issues, you will find additional information in the Reading Room or Advice Line sections of this website.