Effort is Happiness
Many individuals spend the entirety of their lives trying to answer one question, “how can I be happier?” However, many find that the pursuit of happiness does not end up being fulfilling due to the fact that it is a very shallow search, only looking for surface things to become happy. They find, rather, that it is living a meaningful life that truly provides bliss. Living a meaningful life is simple, all a person has to do is engage themselves in their lives and in their relationships (romantic or otherwise). This means that people can find meaning in giving time, effort, attention, etcetera, to both life and relationships. In addition to engagement, a person must also allow themselves to experience the full range of human emotions, rather than accepting the belief that one must be happy one hundred percent of the time. Experiencing all emotions is simply what makes us human.
“The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness” claims Mark Kingwell (256). When we search for happiness in life, that is all we focus on. We become so dead set on things that may make us “happy” that we do not perceive the smaller details in life that truly bring meaning to life. Therefore, we never find the meaning that we are so desperately searching for. This is why fully involving oneself in life is so crucial. It enables us to appreciate all we do for what it is, no matter how insignificant it may seem. It is equally as important for us to realize that it really is okay to not be happy all the time, regardless of what others may say because our emotions are one of the only things that separate us from any other being on this planet.
The biggest factor in living a meaningful life is simply just engaging in it. Engaging in life is really just putting forth all time and effort into all activities in life, such as work or hobbies. Before long, this engagement becomes effortless, almost second nature. This is what Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow”. He goes on to claim that “It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life” (1). This full immersion brings a form of happiness that is very satisfying purely because it is self-made. Martin Seligman asserts that “We can take shortcuts to pleasures, but no shortcuts exist to gratification” (265). This means that, essentially, it has been made very easy for us to obtain things that will give us pleasure for a short while, such as money, but it is only through hard work and perseverance that we may feel a sense of fulfilment or find some form of meaning in life. If we feel this sense of fulfilment, it is because we involve ourselves fully, and use our “character strengths” to reach our goal. This makes us appreciate ourselves for who we are, and therefore, makes us able to find meaning within ourselves.
In addition to simply just engaging in life, one must also engage in the relationships in their life. Many have found that people are social creatures, and we thrive on the company of others. According to Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi, “people get depressed when they are alone, and that they revive when they rejoin the company of others” (5). There is another factor, though, to relationships also making life meaningful. We must engage in these relationships as well, and only then will they truly bring meaning to life. This means that we give all of our time, attention, and effort to the relationships, similarly to simply engaging in life. Csikszentmihalyi found that when a person engages in a relationship, it can improve the quality of life (5). However, the improvement does not just stop there. One is also able to experience “flow” through this engagement as well. Finding this “flow” is what makes for a meaningful life in all aspects. Not only can engaging in a relationship through time, attention, etcetera, bring meaning to life, but, according to Cass R. Sunstein, so can giving money to the people in our lives. She makes that claim that, “… giving has
been found to be associated with improved health” (277). She additionally states that individuals may feel a “hedonic boost” when they give money (277). It makes both giver and the receiver feel good, and may even help the receiver with issues within their live. Knowing that the money that was given made the other person happy and may have even helped them out is what makes the action so it makes an impact in the giver’s life. So, no matter which way it is viewed, engaging in relationships can improve life and make more meaningful in many ways.
The final key to a meaningful life is allowing oneself to experience all emotions that life brings. There is a stigma in today’s world that everyone is obligated to be happy all the time, and if they are not, then there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. That, however, is not the case. Experiencing sadness is essential to participating in the “fullness of the human condition” (280). Essentially, we need sadness in order to feel complete. Without it, we cannot experience life to its fullest extent, so we cannot live a truly meaningful life. At the same time, sadness also aides in focusing our thinking (Begley 280). Some of the most famous thinkers, leaders, and composers experienced at least one moment of melancholy in their life. They all persevered through it, and some even used it as inspiration. Experiencing the full range of emotions in life brings meaning to life because it enables us to appreciate all moments in life, both the good and the bad. If we do not enable ourselves to do so, moments in life may not be as meaningful.
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life” (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). This quote from Ben Stiller’s movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty epitomizes the ideals of living a meaningful life. It describes perfectly how engaging in life and relationships and allowing yourself to feel all emotions truly exemplifies what life is. It even states how without these ideas, life does not really have a purpose. Living a meaningful life is not hard, and it is very fulfilling. It not only makes us happy, but it also makes life enjoyable. When trying to make life meaningful, one must be willing to engage in both their life and relationships, and also realize that experiencing all the emotions that life has to offer is normal and it is simply what makes us human.