Happiness: A Definition of Happiness

Happiness quotes are one of the most popular searches online today.  Yet, happiness seems like such an elusive term for many. How can we define happiness?

Unlocking Happiness in our Lives

Defining Happiness is the Key to Unlocking Our Lives

I can understand the frustration many have.  At times, happiness seems so subjective.  For one person, it may be bubble baths and chocolate.  For another person, happiness is about relationships and good movies.  Yet, I feel that there are underlying themes to happiness for all … if we just have the same starting definition.

The Controversy over Happiness

In this article, I want to give you my working definition for “happiness.”  I realize that not everyone will agree with my definition.  Some may even prefer other terms like “positivity” or “joy.”  And that is quite ok.

I have read some articles on happiness where people take exception to the word since its word origins stem from “hap” or luck.  Most of us know the word “happenstance.”  Although this is the original meaning of the word, I don’t think many people think of it in those terms today.  When someone asks another if they are happy, I don’t feel they mean it in the sense of winning an “emotional lottery.”  And even if they do, I don’t mean that definition in this article.

Some think happiness is a myth.  I suppose there is some merit to this argument depending on the definition of the term.  If we mean that nothing ever bad happens, people are always nice to you, and everything goes your way … then I would agree.  But if we mean you can never know your “true north” or your passion in life, then I would disagree.

A Paradigm Shift on Happiness

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”  I like that.  I think this is a huge key. Happiness doesn’t mean you are never sad, upset, or frustrated.  It is about how you view life, rather than your circumstances.

Happiness is more about a paradigm shift in which you see the good, positive things in your present and future.  Perhaps the most accurate term for happiness is the one Aristotle used, eudaimonia, which translates more as “human flourishing.” Happiness is not all about yellow smiley faces, rainbows, and puppies.  Rather, happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.

Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina and perhaps the world’s leading expert on the subject, describes the ten most common positive emotions that make up happiness: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.  I would add two more:  PASSION and ADVENTURE.

A Working Definition of Happiness

So, here is my working definition of happiness:

Happiness: the positive emotions we experience in life, about life, regardless of our circumstances, as we strive toward our potential.

So, happiness refers to the experience of joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, inspiration, love, awe, passion, … as we look beyond our circumstances and pursue our potential.

Think through this definition.  Defining happiness this way can be a major paradigm shift in your life!  What I essentially just said is that these positive emotions (joy, serenity, inspiration, …) are what we encounter AS we pursue our potential.  So, if you aren’t experiencing these emotions in your life on a regular basis, instead of focusing on the emotions, focus on the CATALYST.  Are you pursuing your passions?  Are you pushing toward your potential?  If you have neglected your First Things, most likely you are out of alignment … and your emotions will soon follow.  Get your priorities aligned to true north … pursue what your true passions are … and you will experience these positive emotions in your life … and thus will be happy.

We will be exploring this concept more in future blog articles and podcast episodes, so stay tuned!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.