“Happiness”, a word used all-too-frequently to refer to many different things is a vague and often-misused word. In fact, we’ve devoted an entire page to that semantic issue.
This page is about JOY. Here we will uncover the keys to a meaningful, purposeful life as a deep well from which lasting joy springs forth.
The advent of Positive Psychology in recent decades has given us insight on what makes life most worth living.
Psychologists are looking beyond just mental illness, and asking the broad questions about the human condition that we’re all faced with:
- What makes us happy? What does ‘happy’ even mean?
- What behaviors and conditions do we see in those with better overall health?
- What do the people with the highest reported life satisfaction and well being have in common?
There has been a swath of research, especially in the last 10-20 years, and the findings are gravitating around a central theme: meaning, not ‘happiness,’ is the key to a life well-lived.
If you’re more scientifically-inclined and want to look at the scientific literature, visit the Science of Meaning page, where you’ll find a detailed breakdown of important terms, scales, findings, and references.
And for a broad overview, check out the page ‘Why Meaning?’
A Sense of Purpose
As modern humans, we have been carefully crafting lives of convenience and pleasure. The fruits of our labor have resulted in less war, better physical health, less poverty, more education, and more. Despite most objective measures of human health dramatically improving everywhere, we seem to be depressed and hopeless. The suicide rates around the world may surprise you.
Emily Esfahani Smith, author of “The Power of Meaning” states:
“There’s an emptiness gnawing away at people, and you don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel it.
Sooner or later, I think we all wonder, ‘Is this all there is?’
And according to the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It’s a lack of something else: a lack of having meaning in life.”
Happiness, the comfort and ease we seem to be so enamored with in the modern world, is not actually what gets us to an optimal state of being.
Rather, it’s meaning that offers a deep well of life satisfaction and joy.
Emily Esfahani Smith’s TED Talk “There’s more to life than being happy” calls attention to meaning in life as the more-fulfilling, healthier, and more impactful goal in life.
Purpose, a part of meaning, is the motivator we need. It’s our why.
As Nietzsche famously said, “He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.”
Whether we are comfortable or not, sad or happy, healthy or suffering, we need a sense of purpose to drive our actions. Having a sense of coherence and significance as we go about living brings context to our life, giving things real value. Without these things creating a sense of meaning, we can only get so far. Like our first type of happiness, ephemeral pleasures are fun, but temporary, and don’t create lasting fulfillment.
The 4 Cornerstones of Meaning
The 4th ‘Type’ of happiness isn’t actually ‘happiness’ at all.
And yet, as we journey through the semantic weeds of ‘happiness,’ that thing for which we’re all apparently striving, this is the crucial point of arrival.
Type 4 Happiness is actually Meaning in Life.
If you watched the video on our home page, you’ve seen how we make a distinction between Meaning IN vs OF life. And you’ve heard mention of the Enablers, the tools that we can practice to live more skillfully each day.
Most importantly, you will have seen that we break meaning in life into 4 primary Cornerstones: Discovery / Exploration, Love, Service, and Expression.
These are the essence of ‘Type 4’ happiness.
We’ll give a short intro to each of the cornerstones below, and we highly recommend that you visit each respective section to be taken on a journey of discovery and growth. Within each cornerstone’s section, we’ve collected resources, tools, models, and meditations to help you grow that cornerstone’s foundation in your own life.
“Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality.” –Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis p. 238
Service is also VERY much enhanced when it matches our essence with Discovery and Expression. When doing work that anyone could do, it may be a joy, and of service, yet not as fulfilling as the combination of those three cornerstones. When it comes to the cornerstones, combinations are greater than the sum of their parts.
Whether it be a form of art like music, poetry, performance, or a putting forth of our authentic selves, when we express, we bring authenticity into the world.
It can also give us release, putting words to our emotions, or opening up to empathy from a friend.
Our section on Expression has loads of tools and resources for enhancing this cornerstone in your life. Give it a read and see what joy awaits you through this cornerstone of meaning.
Our section on Love contains chapters which are themselves deserving of encyclopedias.
There, you’ll learn the secrets of Presence, Self-Love, Dating, Communication, and more. For every stop along the way, we’ve gathered tools, resources, and exercises to expand your knowledge and enliven your relationships. Give it a look:
Type 4 Tools
Wow! You’ve made it so far!
Did you get here after reading through all 4 Happiness Types? Way to go!
To compliment Type 4: Meaning and Purpose, we’ve collected a range of tools for you to use: Books, Videos, Links and more.
Check out all the resources here: