Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The World Will Not Devote Itself To Making Us Happy

Gallup has been conducting public opinion polls for the past eighty years.

Founded by one of the great market researchers of the last century, their name has become synonymous with relevant, timely, and accurate research on what people around the world think and feel.

In their annual happiness and well being index, their survey questions ask people to think about yesterday, from the morning until the end of the day, reflecting on where they were, what they were doing, whom they were with and how they felt. And they pose a series of specific questions, asking people to remember the following:

If they were treated with respect all day, if they smiled and laughed and learned something interesting, if they were satisfied with their job and the work they did, if they got to use their strengths to do what they do best, and if the people at work created an environment that was trusting and open.

Happiness, then, seems to be driven more by experiences than by things. Not just by the hedonic pleasures of the senses, but also the eudaimonic joys of connection. Having a horizon to point to. Having multiple centers of belonging. Having a daily doorway to both sustenance and sanity. Having things in our lives that make us excited to wake up in the morning. Having a combination of positive emotion, engagement and meaning and satisfaction.

The irony is, inasmuch as we need to relate to and connect with others to become happy, the world will not devote itself to making us happy.

Ultimately, we are still accountable for our own happiness.