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July 4, 2024

"True happiness comes from the things that matter most.”

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One of the ultimate ends for everything we do to improve our life is to create more happiness. I think that we’re in desperate need for more happiness in the world, and unfortunately it has been harder to come by recently than usual.

But I have a renewed hope that we can right the ship after learning more about Arthur Brooks and his work about happiness. He says that happiness comes from 3 things that matter most - Enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning.

First let’s talk about enjoyment. It means that we experience positive emotions in the act of doing thing in our lives. Quality time with people brings us joy. Making progress on something and seeing improvement brings us joy. Having fun and experiencing new things brings us joy.

Then there’s satisfaction. This is also known as experiencing contentment. It’s having a sense of gratification that you’re living a good life, that you’re applying yourself and making the most of opportunities, and that you’re grounded in what you have rather than lusting for what you don’t. Surprisingly, contentment also comes from overcoming challenges in your life.

And last is meaning. This means that what you do has a greater purpose to it. Like sculpting a new life as you raise a child, impacting a cause through your work, and curiously exploring your faith or self. Without meaning, what you do doesn’t have any weight to it - life is just happening but it’s not satiating your soul.

The things that bring us enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning. Those are the things that matter most.

This expands into a common theory about happiness, that Brooks also talks about, which is called “eudaimonic happiness”. It’s based on living out the virtues that you’re most proud to embody. This contrasts with another form of happiness called “hedonic happiness” which is rooted in experiencing pleasure.

We can sense the difference in depth when something gives us temporary happiness (like buying new things or indulging in unhealthy sensory experiences) versus when it gives us lasting happiness (that makes us feel genuinely and authentically good about who we are).

So as much as you’re able, lean toward eudaimonia and live a virtuous life to experience true happiness. And that comes from the things that matter most - Enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning.

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