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Being meaningful = Being happy. Correct?

I’m often asked if being meaningful is the same as being happy. What’s your view? It’s been discussed as far back as 335 BC, when the Greek philosopher Aristotle came up with the concept of ‘Eudaimonia’ which often gets translated as ‘happiness’. Aristotle thought to lead a happy life requires cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential. He thought that it’s an active life, a life in which you do your job and contribute to society, a life in which you are involved with your community, a life in which you realize your potential. Psychologists have picked up on this and argue that it is about ‘being and doing good’ which some would say is deeper than just being happy.

Meaningfulness is a quality that must be created or chosen. A study by George and Park at the University of Connecticut reviewed literature about what constitutes a meaningful life and came up with three features. A meaningful life firstly has a purpose i.e. the degree to which you feel directed by valued goals; secondly, comprehensiveness, the ability to make sense of your life and see it as coherent; lastly, mattering, the belief that your life has significance and is valued.

Happiness is about satisfying needs or desires and is linked sometimes to a quick win i.e. you can ‘buy’ something to make yourself feel happy like a bunch of flowers, clothes or a holiday; it’s about taking more than giving.

I was very lucky to connect with Emily Esfahani Smith who is the author of the fascinating book ‘The Power of Meaning – Creating a life that matters’. Emily has spent some considerable time exploring how we can begin to build a culture of meaning in to our lives, families, workplace and communities. She argues that the search for meaning can without doubt deepen our lives and is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness.

Studies show it is worth seeking a life that is meaningful even though at times it might still be challenging and stressful. According to the Harvard Grant Study the findings show that there is little association between health and longevity, and happiness goals such as money and fame. Instead what they found is that the more powerful factor associated with health, contentment and longevity is the ability to maintain satisfying and meaningful long term relationships.

I enjoy helping people create a work life that is meaningful. It is very satisfying to help people work out what it is that makes them feel alive, grabs their attention and is their passion. To be able to then work to a common cause to ignite this enthusiasm further is powerful because when challenges arise and work gets tough with deadlines and the unexpected, I find that people don’t mind so much because they know they are doing good for themselves and also for others. I help my clients identify a work environment that suits them and therefore they develop relationships with like-minded colleagues that are meaningful - they automatically have things in common and are working towards shared goals.

So, there is clearly a big difference between being meaningful and being happy and seeking a meaningful life can potentially lead to a longer life with a positive impact on health and contentment


Explore and discover more with Katie at Meaningful Recruitment:

Written by Katie Redfern : Founder of Meaningful Recruitment.

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