The Meaning of Happiness

Happiness has been a frequent topic of conversation among my clients, colleagues, and other partners in crime over the last several weeks. Not surprising, it is the start of a new year and we are all in agreement that we want 2011 to be better than 2010.  Happiness is a foundational notion in America, (see the Constitution). Happiness can be an elusive emotion. Here one moment, poof, gone the next, maddening. What exactly is happiness? And what makes people happy?

(If you have read my blog for a while this next statement will be familiar) Looking at my dictionary “Happiness” is defined as “contentment”. “Contentment” in turn is defined as, “satisfied with what one has”.   “Contentment, being satisfied with what one has” – that is it?!? Sounds different from common synonyms for happiness: pleasure, gladness, and fortunate. Contentment somehow sounds like compliancy, or as if you are settling, which seems an odd theme for a blog written by a Life Coach.  But is it really?

Going back to the idea of happiness as foundational to America, happiness is essential for people to live a virtuous and good life. Specifically the “pursuit of happiness” in life, not the acquisition of everyone each man wants in life. The pursuit, the quest, the working for, the success and failures that happen throughout this pursuit in life are key. It is the process of living in such a way that our actions at home, work and play are focused towards a greater good, while celebrating the good of now and not ignoring the negative of now too.

These actions can be a simple as making your bed in the morning because you like too or Bearing witness to the simple stunning beauty of a mass of birds swelling and condensing across the sky as they seek a set of trees to roost in for the night. These actions can be a grand as putting in the time “to get the job done right.”  For each of us these actions are different as the feeling of happiness. Dante was on to something when wrote, “Take henceforth your pleasure as your guide.” (From the Divine Comedy, the line is Virgil’s parting statement as he leaves Dante about to enter Paradise after traversing Purgatory and Hell). If you live fully, with your eyes open to what difficulties people create for ourselves and how we can address these, you know where happiness, real happiness, lives and  can guide yourself there through this heart-felt and won wisdom.



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