Most people I meet want to have a happy and healthy life as they grow older. Who wouldn’t want to be happy?
So how can I help you to be happier? I believe the secret lies in embracing the Pleasure Purpose Principle.
How happy are you?
Often we see happiness a destination. “When we pay off the mortgage, I’ll be happy”. “Once the children are settled, I’ll be happy”. The idea that buying new stuff, achieving something, or someone else will make us happy.
“How happy are you?” is usually answered with a general evaluation of how satisfied you are with life in general. Often influenced by how you think you ought to feel, given all that you have. Happiness is measured by taking a snapshot of our life.
But if you were to measure happiness by taking a video of each hour of each day and pay attention to how we feel? You may get a very different perspective.
Happiness is a feeling; an emotion. It makes more sense to focus on how we spend the time we have each day. To pay attention to how our daily experiences makes us feel.
What makes us happy?
Since the 1990’s psychologists have shifted their focus from mental ill health to finding out what makes us feel happy and well. The school of Positive Psychology. And it turns out there is much more to it than simply having fun!
One of the leading proponents in this research is Martin Seligman. He argues that discovering your signature strengths is the key to living life with a sense of purpose and gratitude. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is famous for developing the concept of Flow in which we achieve a state of total involvement in life.
My inspiration comes from Paul Dolan and his wonderful book ‘Happiness by Design’. His simple secret to being happy is the Pleasure Purpose Principle. The idea that we need to experience both positive emotions and a sense of being valued and useful to be truly happy in our daily lives.
How does it work in practice?
Let me give you an example…
Recently I embarked on a 4 day cycling trip. As a group of 4, we followed the John Muir Way across Scotland for 135 miles from Helensburgh on the Clyde to Dunbar on the east coast. Despite the sore bum, this was a pleasurable experience for me. Each day I experienced positive feelings of well being. The scenery was stunning, clear autumn skies and sunshine. I smiled and laughed a lot. Just an occasional grimace when the going got tough!
But importantly, I also woke each morning with a real reason to get up and get going. I was about to spend the day doing something worthwhile and meaningful. Able to use my skills and be my best self. Feeling good about myself and feeling that I am connected to other people.
For those four days I was lost in a delicious bubble. No time or head space to worry about things I had left undone or the to do list waiting for me. Just focused on the day ahead and totally absorbed in the experience.
What made me feel purposeful is a very personal thing…
Knowing that you feel a sense of purpose is only half of the secret to being happy. Dig a bit deeper and you will discover each of us has a different reason for being; a different sense of purpose.
You need to know what it is that gives you that feeling in order to choose to feel purposeful for more of the time. What motivates you and provides that sense of feeling valued and purposeful is the core of your personality.
On my cycling trip, we all chose to spend our time doing the same activity but the sense of purpose we derived from the trip was very different.
Finding your feel good factors
For me, the key motivator was being part of a team. I didn’t want to let people down by dipping out. Time was built in for taking in a bit of history and culture and chatting along the way. Friends and family joined us for beers and moral support. Connecting, learning and sharing with others gave me a sense of purpose.
Sandy had spent many hours planning our trip, booking accommodation, checking out places to eat and drink. Our Logistics Director! His sense of purpose came from taking responsibility, monitoring progress and seeing his plan work in practice.
Jane loves a challenge and a target. She had persuaded us to cycle rather than walk the route and to do it in 4 days, not 5! Making sure we all achieved the goal and ‘pushed our envelopes’ gave her a sense of satisfaction..
Daredevil Ian gets a buzz from something new and exciting. Having the opportunity to be creative and find new solutions to problems. How apt was it then, that it was Ian who had a puncture. Only to discover that his spare inner tube was also damaged. No bike shop for miles around. Rather than be a nightmare situation this was a good day for our Mr Fix-it.
Our shared pleasure was clear for all to see on our faces but you have to look closer in to yourself and others to understand what gives you a sense of purpose.
Where do I start?
Take a time out of your busy day and try this simple exercise…
- List all the things you have done in the last 48 hours. How have you spent each hour of each day? What were you doing? Who were you with?
- For each activity, rate how much you experienced positive emotions or pleasure, on a scale of 1-6.
- Next, rate each activity according to how purposeful you felt. Was this something worthwhile for you? Did you feel valued or useful?
This will give you food for thought about how you might choose to spend more time doing things that have both pleasure and purpose? We all need to chill out and have fun sometimes but where does your sense of purpose kick in?
To understand more about what it is that motivates you and brings meaning to your life you will need to dig a bit deeper. Here’s where I can help.
Find out more about the Time of your life 3 step programme and how it can help you find your sense of purpose. Or maybe sign up for my new Time of your life workshop?
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