Perspectives on Happiness Now focuses on the idea of happiness. Is there any topic that has more definitions than happiness? You can find a slew of definitions that cover a wide range of meanings for the word “happiness.”
What Is Happiness?
Consider these three definitions of happiness as the tip of the proverbial iceberg:
Merriam-Webster defines happiness as:
Happiness is the state of being happy.
Wikipedia provides this psychology definition of happiness:
In psychology, happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
HappinessIinternational.Org defines happiness as:
Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
What’s the Problem?
Beyond the fact that happiness is defined by an astonishing variety of definitions, these three quotations aren't much help. Merriam-Webster provides a circular definition. Wikipedia and HappinessInternational define happiness in terms of positive experience. You can be happy when life is good. You are unhappy when life is not so good.
These definitions aren't much help in the challenges of real lives that experience failures, losses, and grief as well as successes, gains, and joy.
Many writers have challenged the idea that happiness depends on positive experiences. My intention for this topic is to consider a wide range of ideas and definitions about happiness from the perspectives of thoughtful people.
The Life-Changing Question
How would your perception of happiness change if you change your thinking about the idea that happiness depends on positive experiences?
Consider this statement by Helen Keller:
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Consider this statement by Victor Frankl, survivor of a Nazi concentration camp:
It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.
Consider also this statement in The Atlantic about his book written after his liberation:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Consider this definition by Hale Dwoskin in the book Happiness is Free:
Quite simply put, happiness is you being your Self. Not the limited self that you pretend to be most of the time, but the unlimited Self that you are and have always been.
The life-changing question is: How can you change your perspective on the meaning of happiness?
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