It Ain’t About Happiness!

The last couple of years have led to an avalanche of books on happiness. It seems that we are in a “happiness” epidemic. Specials on TV (20/20 had a recent show, for example), and articles in magazines all point to our capacity for happiness.

This is NOT what I mean by Thriving! Understand, I don’t think people should avoid happiness. I just don’t think that is the target to aim for. We have started using happiness as the goal, not the side-effect.

And that is why the “happiness movement” will fail. Happiness ends up being elusive, difficult to control, and open to a wide range of definitions. In fact, I think we have reduced any chance of happiness now being a useful term. Some use the idea of euphoria as a definition, others are describing joy and contentment but say happiness, and still others are really looking for that fleeting feeling.

You see, I believe that happiness is actually an external reference. In other words, something has to happen “out there” for me to be happy. Perhaps living in a bigger house, living in different geological location, having other gadgets, finding a new love, or some other change will make me happy. But I have only so much control of the “out there.” And research is showing that in lots of ways, we have a certain “set point.” When something good or bad happens, within a year to year-and-a-half, we return to our previous level of happiness (or unhappiness).

But thriving, that is an internal activity. I can choose to follow a thriving life, regardless of what is going on around me. I don’t have to have new stuff, new love, or a new house to be thriving. And since it is about forming habits of thriving, I can raise my base level of thriving over and over. I can continue to push forward and learn to thrive, IN SPITE of life events. I really can choose to thrive.

Try to choose to be happy. You may be able to do that in the short-term, but it is hard to sustain. But thriving, that is sustainable and achievable by anyone.

So, to say it clearly, Happiness DOES NOT EQUAL Thriving.

HAPPINESS                                             THRIVING
External                                                 Internal
Short-Term                                           Long-Term
Feeling                                                  Action
Set-Point                                               Base-Point