“Whadya Mean By ‘Happiness’?”

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”–Aristotle

I use this quote a lot–in presentations, on this web site, at the bottom of my emails, etc. Why? Well, two reasons:

  1. Aristotle is widely recognized as a great philosopher and thinker. His writings and teachings influenced Western and Christian philosophy; Islamic and Jewish philosophy; and post-Enlightenment thinkers. So you could say he was an important contributor to our world.
  2. He wrote this over 2,000 years ago

The second point is as important as the first. It means that for thousands of years humans have considered happiness the ultimate goal. And I believe that it is just that: the ultimate goal.

But What Do You Mean By Happiness?

Well, it might be easier to answer that by first telling you what I don’t mean:

  • I don’t mean a state of eternal bliss–sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns
  • I don’t mean the physical feeling of happiness (although I hope that by working to be happier you enjoy those feelings)
  • I don’t mean the unrealistic expectation that your life will be free from problems and pain

What I do mean:

  • Well-being–an emotional and physical state that is healthy and productive
  • Optimism–approaching the challenges of the day with a positive outlook
  • Effectiveness–being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, understanding before trying to be understood
  • Active–being engaged in activities that will provide pleasure in the present and a benefit in the future

Happiness as proposed on this site and through the work I do with young adults, is what we as humans were born to pursue. And it’s a lifelong quest. There are no quick fixes. As Tal Ben-Shahar writes in his book, Happier, “We pursue happiness because it is our nature to do so. When the answer to a question is ‘Because it makes me happy,’ nothing can challenge the validity and finality of the answer. Happiness is the highest on the hierarchy of goals, the end toward which all other ends lead.”