Happiness vs. Meaningfulness

It may be a potato potato argument, but semantics can help you make the shift

The semantic discussion undertaken in the NY Mag piece “In 2017, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness”, there are some really good points.

Grammar nerd version:

“hedonia, or the ancient Greek word for what behavioral scientists often call happiness, and eudaimonia, or what they call meaningfulness. The happy life is defined by seeking pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the meaningful life is bigger … the defining features of a meaningful life are connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be your family, your work, nature, or God.”

Which, the happy person would say, is requisite for happiness, right?

The article goes on to say that “But because meaning involves investing in something bigger, the meaningful life is often characterized by stress, effort, and struggle. In a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs by the organization PayScale, those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers were clergy, teachers, and surgeons — difficult jobs that don’t always cultivate happiness in the moment, but that contribute to society and bring those doing them satisfaction.”

And here is where I think semantics fails us. Those people are happy—content—fulfilled by their work. They get pleasure from helping others (happiness) as well as meaning. It doesn’t need to be an either-or situation.

But, can changing how you pursue happiness from happiness to meaning change things for you? Then by all means, change your semantics.

Category: Belief


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