Is Living A Meaningful Life Different From Living A Happy One?

Do you think that it’s more important to live a happy life or a life full of meaning? Often in this society, we obsess over the idea that we need to devote our lives to be happy. Therefore, we plan our lives out trying to measure how our actions and relationships will make us happy but is this really a healthy way to live? Is it healthy to be “happy” all the time? My Writing Inquiry class has been exploring the topic of happiness in an attempt to see how we can achieve happiness in our everyday lives. What I have found is that most people are happier when they are living a life of meaning but what does living a meaningful life entail? 

Pursuing happiness only focuses on the present, whereas living meaningfully involves thinking about the past, present, and future. When we are in pursuit of happiness, we are only focused on what will make us happy in that given moment. So going to Whataburger at 3 am, binge-watching Netflix all day, or eating an entire box of chocolates in one sitting are all ways to make yourself happy. Living meaningfully, on the other hand, involves focusing on your past, present, and future. Think about your dream job and the things you have accomplished in the past to get you to where you are now in order to one day achieve that goal. That is how you live meaningfully.

Living meaningfully involves embracing challenges. Sometimes, to live meaningfully, you are required to put yourself in situations of stress. In some cases, that might be taking organic chemistry to satisfy your degree requirements and graduate. Sometimes, you need to accept the challenge of being put outside of your comfort zone to excel and get closer to achieving your goals. 

Pursuing happiness is really just a diversion from experiencing pain and suffering. Most of us spend our lives trying our best to avoid pain. We won’t ever ask out the boy we like because we’re too afraid of rejection or we won’t ever push ourselves to work harder because we’re too scared of failure. In all cases, we forget that no matter how hard we try to avoid pain and suffering, it can crash down on us at any given moment. When life throws a curveball in your face, it is living meaningfully, not happily, that gives us the resilience to overcome adversity. Carl Jung, a renowned swiss psychiatrist, did studies on living meaningfully saying “...meaning makes a great many things endurable - perhaps everything.” 

Interestingly, after researching happiness in my Writing Inquiry I learned that meaningfulness and happiness may be interlinked. The Greek word “eudaimonia” has been translated as happiness but a more accurate translation is “meaningfulness” or “purpose in life.” Living a meaningful life means living with a purpose but also feeling more than just happiness. It means living genuinely and being open to feeling pain. 

“A meaningful life is not being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being perfect. It is about being real, being humble, being strong and being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others. It is only then that we could have a full, happy and contented life.” -Unknown