Happiness: a mental state of well being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. (Wikipedia)

Ask people what they want in life and most will give some version of “I just want to be happy.” But does happiness make us happy? Is happiness enough? Are we hard wired to seek more than happiness? Are we driven toward other goals than happiness? We’ve all seen enough people persist in miserable relationships, pursue goals that turn out to be antithetical to happiness, stay in jobs they are unsuited to, or otherwise engage in self-sabotaging behavior.

Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania is the author “Authentic Happiness” (2002), a groundbreaking book in the positive psychology field. In his latest book, “Flourish,” Dr. Seligman theorizes we humans need 5 things to “flourish”:

1) Sense of accomplishment/achievement/skill development, some external evidence to support our self-esteem

2) Engagement or flow, the feeling of pleasantly being lost in a task

3) Meaningful, supportive relationships

4) Purpose or cause greater than ourselves

5) Positive emotion: contentment, joy

The source of much human misery lies in “searching for love in all the wrong places”: worshiping false gods, chasing mammon. Humans are not particularly good about predicting what will bring them
– long term satisfaction,
– lasting contentment, or
– a deep and abiding sense of well being.

Designing a well-balanced life among Seligman’s 5 attributes (accomplishment, engagement, relationships, purpose, positive emotion) seems like a great formula for enduring well being.

Closing quotes:

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is and the future less resolved than it will be” — Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974)

“Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.” — Hosea Ballou (1771–1852)

“False happiness is like false money; it passes for a long time as well as the true, and serves some ordinary occasions; but when it is brought to the touch, we find the lightness and alloy, and feel the loss.” — Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

“Don’t mistake pleasure for happiness. They are a different breed of dogs.” — Josh Billings (pen name of American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw; 1818–1885)