It’s all about balance.
When it comes to our happiness, it seems like we are always seeking a quick fix that will give us endless buckets of bliss after we partake in that one activity. Unfortunately, there is no detox tea of happiness and if you’ve been following the blog for a while now then you might already know that 50% of our happiness is heritable. It is dependent upon things we cannot change such as our genetics and upbringing. And while half the glass is already filled, we can certainly do different things to raise or lower our happiness levels and in turn, increase how fulfilled we are with our lives. Cue Martin Seligman, the father of modern positive psychology, who talks about the idea behind the “three happy lives.” These are three individual pursuits that recognize your highest strengths (via this easy survey quiz) and use them to maximize your experiences. Read on for more about these lives and how to get the most out of them.
The Pleasant Life: Pursuit of Positive Emotion
Defined as the number of pleasurable moments you experience, the pleasant life can be seen as how many times you get to go on vacation per year or treat yourself to something new. It’s learning to use your skills to amplify and receive the most amount of pleasures as possible. For instance, if you’re someone who ranks high in curiosity, you might book a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before. And while sunbathing in the Maldives would certainly make us happier too, the only downside to this life is that fact that positive emotions habituate and don’t last. Meaning, yes—the first day you’re laying out in the sand, you’ll be 100% infatuated and excited but by day 15 those strong feelings won’t be as prominent.
The Good Life: Pursuit of Engagement
The good life is one that focuses on the state of flow. Flow is defined by positive psychologists as the engagement in an activity that is rewarding in and of itself. It’s that two-hour dance class where time is flying by or that rock climb where you’re completely immersed with nature and nothing else matters except breathing in the fresh air. Finding your flow is being so absorbed in the moment, time stops for you. The biggest difference between the pleasant life and the good life is the feeling. In the pleasant life, you’re experiencing how good it feels to go through that pleasurable moment in time. While in the good life, you don’t feel anything because you’re consumed in the present moment. The recipe to achieving a state of flow? Finding out your top five highest strengths and recrafting your life in a way that allows you to experience more of these moments in all different facets.
The Meaningful Life: Pursuit of Meaning
Last but certainly not least is the meaningful life: the life that is probably most recognized and deemed venerable. This life coincides with the idea of using your top highest strengths in service of something that is bigger than yourself. It can be as big as volunteering at a non-profit or as small as buying the person behind you a coffee. This life creates meaning by forcing you to get outside of your inner self and focus your energy onto something or someone else.
Now, what does all of this really mean when it comes to our everyday lives? Well, studies show that the two lives that have the strongest and most lasting effects are the good life and meaningful life. So, find a healthy balance between engagement and meaning. Then, add a sprinkle of pleasurable experiences for the cherry on top of a fulfilled and satisfying life.