Lately I’ve read a number of articles that discuss the difference between happiness and life satisfaction.
In my market research role, I often discussed with people the importance of words in survey questions — asking someone if they are satisfied with a product is different from asking if they’re happy with it, for example. I’m satisfied with my light bulbs if they make light when I turn them on but do they make me happy?
Expanding on that, I might be happy if I’m drinking a pina colada poolside with a good book and a nice band playing. Actually, I’m almost certain to be happy.
But I’m most satisfied when I’ve written a good story or helped a client solve a tough problem or spent time helping a friend, for example. I might not be happy in the middle of the task because it might be challenging, but it’s rewarding, and that’s different.
The New York Times had a story recently with the headline: A New Gauge to See What’s Beyond Happiness
It says in part:
Dr. Seligman recommends looking at the basic elements of well-being, identifying which ones matter most to you, setting goals and monitoring progress. Simply keeping track of how much time you spend daily pursuing each goal can make a difference, he says, because it’s easy to see discrepancies between your goals and what you do.
You might also start to question some of your goals and activities, the way that Dr. Seligman occasionally wonders why he spends so much time playing bridge. It’s brought him some clear achievements — including a second-place finish in the North American pairs championship — but he doesn’t pretend that bridge provides any meaning in life. He says he plays for another element of well-being, the feeling of engagement. “I go into flow playing bridge,” he writes, “but after a long tournament, when I look in the mirror, I worry that I am merely fidgeting until I die.”
Toward that end, I’m meeting with my friend, Sara, this weekend to talk about our life goals and how we can help keep each other accountable. Because she and I are both pretty happy cooking big meals and drinking wine, but that’s not all there is to life.