DR ICHAK ADIZES explores the topic of a meaningful life and what really brings us happiness in the material world. It is not what you may think …
The pursuit of happiness is a right given to us by the US Constitution. Is there any sane human being who does not yearn to be happy? But be careful. Not all roads to happiness are functional. There is evidence that seeking pleasure as a way to be happy could actually be the wrong focus in life.
A new book by Emily Esfahani Smith presents the research that inspired this articles. It is called The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters1.
Seeking and living a life of pleasure might make you happy in the short run, but without deeper meaning it could make you miserable over time. Like sugar, it is sweet and gratifying while consumed, but has undesirable side effects in the long run. Drugs, sex without love, and rich food all provide short-term gratification; they might make you happy for a while only to be followed by a feeling of emptiness over time.
People who pursue happiness are takers. They take from life as much as possible, in any way that will gratify them, and as soon as possible. When a person who is dependent on instant gratification is not given the pleasure they insist on having, they feel like a baby who is pulled away from their mother’s breast. They cry with or without tears. Depending on the age.
So, what does make people happy in the long run? A meaningful life, the author says.
People who have a meaningful life are givers and not takers. At times they may be miserable. Giving and sacrificing are hard work, but in the long run they fulfill. Take parenting as an example. It does not make you happy to have a rebellious teenager, but over time there will be moments of absolute happiness, like when grandchildren arrive. You know the joke: grandchildren are the reward you get for not killing your children.
So, pursuing happiness by seeking immediate rewards is instantly gratifying, but can make you miserable in the long run.