There has been a lot of contention around what happiness really means and if at all it is achievable. I first struggled with understanding what it meant because I had mental paradigms which made me think towards happiness being something one pursues or seeks to discover. But I have found out otherwise.
Happiness is created; not found.
Just a few days ago, I was having a conversation with a schoolmate around whether fun is a product of happiness or happiness is a product of fun. I argued that happiness is a by-product of fun because people derive happiness from indulging in fun activities, not the other way around. But that is just the surface of what this article is talking about. I discovered that there are two kinds of happiness: temporary and lasting.
This brings us back to the conversation I mentioned above about how happiness can be created from fun activities. I’ve learnt that the two main sources of temporary happiness are:
- Hobbies (singing, dancing, clubbing, playing video games, participating in a sporting activity, going to the gym, etc.), and
- Addictions (smoking, drinking, viewing pornography, gambling, etc.)
These a great sources of deriving happiness, but I have discovered that they do not last. They only create momentary surges of happiness. If temporary happiness is what you’re looking for, then maximize on these and stop reading here.
But if you want the real stuff, read on.
I create happiness by intentionally developing myself and developing others.
That is really the only time when I experience lasting happiness.
There is this sense of happiness/fulfillment that is generated from doing something I love and I enjoy. But I’ve accepted that it is almost impossible to always only do those kinds of things, as I usually find myself doing things I could even hate. To better understand such activities, I grouped them into four (4) main zones:
- Pain Zone: this is where I try to pursue things which I naturally have no interest in, or derive no pleasure from just to please others or to simply get a reward. (For example, taking on an extra job that I hate, just to pay my bills).
- Interest Zone: this is where I pursue things which I am simply interested in. I may not necessarily possess the talents required to fully enjoy this zone, but I still go ahead. (For example, attending a workshop on bioengineering which I am interested in, but have no intention of actively pursuing).
- Talent Zone: this is where I pursue things simply because I am talented in them, not because they give me any sense of fulfillment or purpose. (For example, recording a song simply because I think I can sing).
- Gift Zone: this is where I pursue things I am gifted in; those things which not only come easily to me, but give me a sense of purpose. (For example, blogging because writing gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me in a flow state*)
*Flow state: an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best —Psychology Today
It is pretty obvious that the maximum level of happiness comes from operating in the “gift zone”. In the world we live in today, it is nearly impossible to always operate in the gift zone. However, I try to only operate mainly in the talent and gift zones which hold the greatest power to develop me and produce maximum happiness.
This is where I love to focus on because it allows me to create shared happiness. Most of what I do here is by sharing my knowledge (however limited) with people and creating opportunities for them to learn new skills or develop existing skills. The two levels for this are:
- Indirect development. I do this by writing articles which teach people something new or get them to think differently about something. When I get feedback from people about how my writing has helped them immensely, the happiness I get is inexplicable.
- Direct development. I do this by ensuring that I only bring people on board a project I’m working on if it allows them develop a skill or learn a new one. This way, I contribute hands-on their skill development. This has been my philosophy in Ingress Media and the African Leadership Model United Nations, both of which I founded.
Creating happiness, however, is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. How I discovered happiness may not work for you. Still, don’t stop pursuing happiness, because in the end, if we live our lives unhappy, what was the point of it all?