Article Summary By Michael Estlack, Directory of Connectivity
Happiness. We all seek it. Many times, however, we find that the constant need for it has detrimental effects. Psychologist Martin Seligman’s even created a whole new field called positive psychology, that for much of its beginnings, focused it efforts on the study of happiness. This focus of happiness was unintentional, but it bode well with the media and public, and it stuck for some time.
Harvard philosopher, Robert Nozick, had his doubts though. He felt that if the only focus in life were to be happy, then life would have no depth or meaning. Nozick believed that having meaning in life was crucial to any true happiness. So, with this thinking, he worked with Seligman to redirect the focus of the positive psychology field to have a broader scope.
Down the road, a team of psychologists at Florida State University studied both happiness and meaning in a group of participants. What they found was that happiness and meaning had many overlaps, but they are still very distinct entities. Happiness seekers who cared not for meaning generally were more driven by selfish or hedonistic pursuits. Those who focused on meaning, however, were the altruistic type and seen as givers to life. Those ascribed to finding this meaning were shown to have a deeper, more real sense of well being by these researchers.
This may be no news to you, as it wasn’t to John Stuart Mill who states in 1873, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.”
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