How having meaning in your life is more important than happiness

I read an article in Reader’s Digest today about happiness and having meaning in your life. The title was “Happiness: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Ouch! The moral of the article is that happiness is fleeting and there are other qualities in life that are more important in the long run. At first I was not completely convinced, but I did find some interesting information. After reading the short article, I agree that the writers do have some good points.

The article was based on a 1946 book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who was a well-known psychiatrist. I just ordered a copy after reading the article, so I’ll report back on it! It sounded interesting.

Click here to purchase Man’s Search for Meaning

Frankl wrote the book about his experiences in a concentration camp after his pregnant wife and most of his family died, but he did not. He noticed some patterns in those who managed to live through the ordeal. To quote Reader’s Digest, “those who found meaning in even the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not.” For example, Frankl counseled two men out of committing suicide by helping them realize they still had purpose in life. He stated “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

As for happiness, RD refers to research that shows having a purpose in life increases well-being and satisfaction, and decreases depression, while chasing just happiness decreases one’s level of happiness! They theorize that simply looking for happiness leads to shallow feelings while pursuing meaning gives more lasting and deeper joy in the long run.

This could be because happiness is related on momentary feelings that will end, while finding and pursuing meaning in your life is a lasting goal. To quote, “people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rated their satisfaction with life higher–even when they were feeling bad–than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose.”

It seems that happiness comes and goes in bursts while meaning and purpose lead to ongoing, steady satisfaction. Something to think about!

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