Meaning vs. Happiness

Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others.”

I shared a post called “A Lesson In Happiness from A Holocaust Survivor” on my Weekly Reads Wednesday yesterday.

It was not at all what I expected to read when I opened the article, but definitely caught my attention.

{Pause to let you read or at least skim it.}

meaning vs. happiness

I emailed it to JC and asked what his life purpose was and he responded back with a very clear and concise statement that fit perfectly with his line of work and interests.

Then it was my turn. I knew mine had to do with health, healing, and caring for others….helping people take care of themselves and see themselves in a more loving light … but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Are my interests too broad? Have I nailed it down yet since I still have so much education in front of me? Have I just not found it yet?

Stop pursuing happiness. What you need is meaning in your life. Pursuing happiness makes people less happy. Having meaning gives you a purpose for living.

That’s what the article tells me. Except over and over I hear people on the search to be happy. That’s what all us Millennials want, right? When I talk about my previous career, I will commonly say I wasn’t happy. But perhaps the truer statement (that I also use) is that I most definitely was not fulfilled. I changed careers and am working toward a career in medicine so that I can feel fulfilled. I certainly hope that I’ll be happy, but what I am looking for meaning.

But does it have to be either meaning or happiness?

There is and will be a lot of struggle that goes a long with my career change (and the career paths of many others!) It’s going to involve lots of debt, many years of school, some grueling hours, and missed time with family and friends. That doesn’t sound like happiness to me! Certainly not like the happiness I get from sleeping in and drinking coffee in my pajamas on the couch on Saturday mornings.

But what I’m working toward is having a purpose for my life. Being able to do something every day that aligns with my passions and my goals. And I believe that WILL make me happy, despite all the hardships and stress.

The article suggests happiness is “taking” while meaning is “giving.” On the surface that makes sense, but is it always true? Can’t I be happy when I’m giving? Don’t people talk about how much they love community service because of how good it makes them feel? Is that feeling not happiness?

I hope that in my future I find happiness and fulfillment, joy in life but also purpose.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

  • Do happiness and meaning have to be separated?
  • Do you derive one from the other?
  • What are you doing to find both happiness AND meaning in your life?




Weekly Reads Wednesday 10.29.14

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