#55: Stop Looking For Happiness in Doing More and Focus on These 5 Things Instead

It’s time to stop looking for happiness in doing more, and focus on these 5 things instead. Yep, that’s right. Today I’m going to share with you five tips and a little-known secret. Stay tuned to this podcast, because I’m going to give it to you at the end of our time together.

In the next ten minutes, I’m going to help you figure out what might be missing in your life. I’ll share what I learned from Martin Seligman in the field of positive psychology about happiness to help you understand how to experience more of it in your life. And, I’m going to share that little-known secret I mentioned a moment ago. It might surprise you, but it’s going to help you in your life, your relationships, and your work.


Where Do We Seek Happiness?

People spend so much time looking for happiness.

We think that it’s going to come to us from a career. Maybe if we have the kind of job we want, we’ll be happy.

Sure, career success and growth can inspire us. The work we do everyday brings meaning to life. When there are opportunities to try new projects or meet new people, work is enjoyable. And then, there are those parts of our work that are repetitive, monotonous, and less enjoyable. We might even change jobs or careers, thinking that it’s the job. Somehow the job failed us, and we’re off to another one. Looking for happiness and satisfaction.

Then, we think it’s going to come from relationships. If we get connected to the right people in our lives, we’ll be happy then.

Some people get married, thinking that this will bring happiness. Or divorced, thinking that will ring happiness. Or we have children and look for our happiness in them. When children grow up to make different choices or have challenges, we might wonder. Is it their job to make us happy?

And then, there’s our physical health. Perhaps we realize that we would like to be in different physical shape.

If we need to lose some weight to get healthier, we think about losing weight, and we think that will make us happy. The journey of weight loss is challenging, and it’s often very difficult. I’ve been there myself and know that road well. We think that when we are a certain size, or when we hit our weight goal, we will feel better. We will finally be happy.

And so it goes.

We’re on an endless search for happiness. We think we need to things to get it. We need to work harder. Or we need the right job, and happiness will be the result. We need to right situation. The right relationships. Other people will make us happy. We need to have the right kind of physical health or hit the goal.

And then we will be happy.

The Happiness Set Point

There’s this idea that people have a general level of happiness they experience most of the time. We call this the happiness set-point. It could be temperament, personality, or something else that influences this, but each person has this general level of how happy they are from one day to the next. Sonia Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, proposed that people’s happiness level is 50% due to genetic inheritance, which means people can only move their happiness up and down from a ‘happiness set point.’ And, we generally go back to that set point.

The idea is that when something comes up that moves our happiness meter, we feel happier for a short time. We have a new relationship. Or something happens in our professional life. And we initially feel like that experience made us happy. We move into a new house. We go on a vacation. And again, we feel a little happier for a short time. Then after that initial elevated level of happiness, we go right back to our happiness set point. And we don’t feel that increased happiness anymore.

We keep moving up or down with a little more happiness and then returning to our set-point over time. Because of this experience we’re having we start to think we need to do more or get more to feel happy again. Instead, we’re focusing all on the external things that don’t bring lasting happiness.

At this point, we’ve explored the ways we’re chasing happiness, and why we should stop looking for happiness in doing more. Or in getting things. Or in chasing achievements.

Focus on These 5 Things instead

Instead of looking for happiness in all of the ways that make us happier only for a little while, Martin Seligman tells us that there are 5 things we can focus on every day, every week, and throughout the year. And these five things will create well-being. Our sense of well-being is just another label for our happiness and life satisfaction.

The five things that create happiness are:

  • Pleasant or positive emotions
  • Engagement or flow
  • Relationships that are positive and supportive
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment for its own sake

Together, these five areas create the acronym PERMA.

And you can look at your five areas together for an idea of what creates your own happiness. This will help you also look at it, to see where you can change it. To increase your efforts to influence your happiness.

[Please visit https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/learn-more/perma-theory-well-being-and-perma-workshops for detailed descriptions of each area within the PERMA framework.]

Now is the Time

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Happiness is the Way

Here’s the little-known secret I promised you. While happiness is worth pursuing, it’s not the end-result of our efforts. Instead, it’s the way to get all of those other things in life.

Happiness is the way. It’s a manner of living. Happiness is the journey itself.

Success doesn’t bring happiness. It’s happiness that causes success.

Yes, we need strategies too. In life, relationships, and work, we all need communication skills. We might need negotiation strategies. And especially at work, we need leadership skills. Yet none of these strategies or skills will bring happiness.