In pursuit of happiness | Sunday Observer

In pursuit of happiness

“What makes you happy?” you may ask; and you are bound to receive a variety of answers. Advancements in science and technology, access to budget travel modes, having disposable wealth and spare time; all make our modern life more enjoyable and exciting. We chase after money, fast cars, possessions, automatic equipment, security, electronic media, smart phones, etc. to give us happiness.

But, the question that demands an answer is whether all these advancements, wealth accumulation and materialistic consumerism have made us happier.

Linear model

Many of us go with the linear model of life. We assume that if something is good and if we could have more of that, it would increase our sense of happiness. But, we find it is not completely true. Since, in life there are a number of things that fall into the category of good: e.g. money, food, work, family,leisure, friends, colleagues, modern amenities, mode of transport, exercise, the list goes on.

In fact, every aspect and facet of life is good. Yet, these good things will remain good only if consumed or received in the right quantity, quota and in moderation. As the saying goes, ‘even a good thing can become destructive if taken in excess’.

Determinants of happiness

The process to attain happiness is simple and straightforward. The first step in attaining a happy life is identifying what is good for us. Then, we need to determine the right quantity of those good things. Make a list of activities and things that are most meaningful and enjoyable.

Then, determine, how much of each would create a happy life. Because, there is a strong correlation between quantity and quality!

In this process, we need to identity both, personal and professional activities that are important for us. Then, decide on the quantity that will yield the best quality. Finally, determine the time needed to be spent on each of these activities in order to attain happiness. Self-control can make a big difference towards well-being and happiness.

Even though the process is basic and simple, why is it that happiness is such an elusive commodity in life? The great sage Aristotle put it this way: “the point of good life is eudaemonia”. Although, ‘eudaemonia’is a complex Greek word, it has a simple message: “happiness” – which is a mental state that comes from within and consists in virtue. If people are to lead a happy life, they should, “do their best in what they are best at for the sake of others” because our happiness index is dependent on that.

Happiness defined

For many of us happiness is elusive because in the first place we do not know what we are best at. It is not easy to identify what we are best at. Sometimes, it might take years before we really stumble upon our forte.

Education is supposed to play a big role in this discovery. Unfortunately, since our educational system does not really support such discovery of our strengths, people tend to resort to horoscope, palm reading or rely on fortune-tellers to give them the much needed insight, and thereby get themselves into diverse difficulties.

These days, there are excellent personality, IQ , EQ instruments and psychometric tests that could help us understand our emotional and mental make-up and occupations that might best suit us, based on our strengths. If you find your right fit, there is a strong possibility that you would flourish and fulfil your potential and thereby attain job satisfaction. Then, you will have the potential to become a happy person, able to gain a higher income.

Civil unrest and youth

Although, there is little research done on the effects civil war and unrest has on people’s well-being, it is obvious that toxic contention strongly reduces happiness. We see in the horizon, symptoms that haunted our country in the past, re-emerging now. Youth are not happy with what life is giving them. There is a general reluctance among youth to enter into jobs offered by trade and technology, as they do not perceive a promising future in these jobs.

Although, the reverse is true, the youth are unable to see themselves happily engaged in these jobs and leading a contented life. Steps must be taken by companies and chambers to create a financial culture that makes job opportunities attractive for youth, giving them a fair pay, enhancing the dignity of jobs and creating career paths that give them hope for a promising future.

Policy implications

Research on happiness shows that the meaning of our lives is enhanced as we give back to society, helping those fallen by the way side, act as agents of peace and usher in changes that make the country a better place.

Let us plant, cultivate and initiate projects that maximize the national happiness index and enable generations to enjoy the gift of life. Let us formulate policies that address wealth inequalities, address poverty issues, and implement interventions that bring about positive changes and justice for all, in health and education.

The good news is that everyone has the opportunity to live a happy life. The clarion call is to be more humanly authentic and create genuine opportunities for us as well as others, to prosper in life.

(The writer is an HRD Practitioner)