A Change in Perspective

Yesterday, I woke up to the  heartbreaking news of a friend’s dad passing. He was a kind hearted man who lived a very dignified life. I started to think about my own life and what legacy I would be leaving when my time to pass were to come. I was disappointed in myself for a moment, there I was plopped in my bed with my laptop opened—-Wow, I just wasted 15 minutes browsing through Facebook and eating chips! Ang babaw ng buhay ko! Ok, I’ll admit I was a bit hard on myself–HELLO!!! EPIPHANY ito, kailangan seryoso!!! hahaha!

Coincidentally I came across this article by The Atlantic so putting these “signs” together caused me to have a bit of a wake up call. It’s a lengthy (but meaty) read but if you have the time and you’re looking for an AHA moment to start your year–I urge you to go ahead and read it. 

In a nutshell (in the way I understood it), the title says it all: THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN BEING HAPPY. At the end of the day, it’s about living a life of MEANING and PURPOSE instead of just “being happy”. I took the liberty of breaking down the highlights and copy-pasting the key points for you :)

1. TAKER vs GIVER

Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.” 

“Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the authors write. 

How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.

“Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others,” explained Kathleen Vohs. In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others in need. 

2. HAPPINESS fades away, MEANING is enduring.

Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment — which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning. 

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life,” the researchers write. “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.” That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy. 

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. “If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.” 

3. Being HUMAN according to Frankl

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

I wanted to dissect this article further but I also didn’t want to ruin it for you, so please read it when you have the chance. I’m not saying it’s BAD to be happy—we all want to be happy! I’m LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and a big advocate for positivity. This whole blog is about spreading HAPPINESS!!!:) But I love what FRANKL wrote: “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'” TAMA siya, there has to be a REASON to be happy. 

The article closes with this and it really makes so much sense!–-> By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness. Sa totoo lang nung nabasa ko ‘to, parang nahiya ako sa sarili ko. I haven’t been living the way God destined for me to live. But I guess I can always start now, I can always make changes today.


7 Responses to A Change in Perspective

  1. Ang sarap ulit ulitin basahin ito. Gusto ko i-saksak sa pagkatao ko ang points na inimpart mo. Ang sarap talaga maging happy kapag may meaning ang saya mo. Not because it is directed but because it is naturally felt. Keep it up Ms. Patty! I’m your blogger fan

  2. Actually I just printed your article the moment I finished this blog you have and put it in my desk para every morning to start my day right, I will read this over and over again para lang ma remind ako na you can find happiness by being selfless and by making other people smile para maging happy ako.

  3. This post is so timely, Patty, thank you for sharing. :)

    I’m actually at a point where I’m questioning why I’m giving up so much instead of pursuing little happy hobbies of mine. I guess, I still do feel that I have to add meaning to my own life, so I’m reminding myself not to be too selfish too. :)

  4. This is so enlightening and moving. The appeal is so personal as I take a leap of faith this 2013 to have a cheerful generous heart for others. I have started random/planned acts of giving (not just tangible stuff but most especially love and time). The more I give, I receive a hundredfold. Example, I was given FREE accommodations to Boracay, SG and BKK without even asking =)
    But more than the blessing, it is a comforting feeling that I’m living a purposeful life.

    Happy giving!

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