I’ve recently read a great perspective on happiness written by John Gardner (Self-Renewal, The Individual and the Innovative Society). I want to share with you a brief context and an impressionable comparison that I found to be relatable, applicable or at least thought provoking. I believe this fits very well in the hypothesis that we should all strive to learn and apply what we learn towards a meaningful purpose, not simply accepting life, health, and work amid our stagnant limitations:
“The plain truth is that man is not capable of achieving the vegetative state implied in the current conception of happiness. Despite almost universal belief to the contrary, gratification, ease, comfort, diversion and a state of having achieved all one’s goals do not constitute happiness for man.” Happiness as total gratification is not a state to which man can aspire.” (Gardner)
STORYBOOK CONCEPTION =
- desires fulfilled
- a bland idleness
- every form of pleasant thumb-twiddling
- great emphasis on being loved
TRUER VERSION =
- striving toward meaningful goals that relate the individual to the larger context of purpose
- seeking and purposeful effort
- the full use of one’s powers and talents
- the capacity to give love
Years ago I read a quote that “happiness is a work ethic” (Shawn Achor). I believe that statement to be true. We should all engage with meaningful goals towards a purpose, knowing that we may not necessarily attain them. The really important tasks are never really finished, but the purposeful effort is satisfying and brings happiness as you relate with others and something more comprehensive than your needs.
On a personal note, after an 8 – 0 Sophomore football season (football is life) and a conference championship, we were all very happy as a team. I have a memory of being asked privately by the coach, Walt Fiegal, “Is there anything else you could have done for the team that would have made us more successful?” I don’t recall my response, but I do remember that he followed with a statement something to the effect of, “you’ll never want to look back knowing that you could have contributed more.” That very intentional and challenging lesson has stuck with me, you earn and continually improve yourself with others toward a purpose. Effort and work ethic exude happiness.
“Virtue will have naught to do with ease, it seeks a rough and thorny path.” (Montaigne)