what’s crucial to well-being is not how cheerful you feel, not how much money you make, but rather the meaning you find in life and your sense of “earned success” — the belief that you have created value in your life or others’ lives. “People find meaning in providing unconditional love for children,” writes Dr. Brooks, who is now president of the American Enterprise Institute. “Paradoxically, your happiness is raised by the very fact that you are willing to have your happiness lowered through years of dirty diapers, tantrums and backtalk. Willingness to accept unhappiness from children is a source of happiness.
Part of a great article. One other nugget:
Why did billionaires desperately seek more money even when there was nothing they wanted to do with it?
And why did some people keep joylessly playing bridge?
They wanted to win for its own sake, even if it brought no positive emotion,
In observing people’s need for accomplishment, Dr. Seligman says, he’s reminded of his early experiments that famously identified the concept of “learned helplessness.” He found that when animals or people were given a series of arbitrary punishments or rewards, they stopped trying to do anything constructive.
To avoid that sort of malaise, Dr. Seligman recommends looking at the basic elements of well-being, identifying which ones matter most to you, setting goals and monitoring progress. Simply keeping track of how much time you spend daily pursuing each goal can make a difference, he says, because it’s easy to see discrepancies between your goals and what you do.
So yeah, do what’s meaningful. Don’t win for winning’s sake, and make sure you spend your time effectively.
I think the quote “creating value in your life or others’ lives” is a bit misleading, because creating value in your life could almost be interpreted along financial metrics. I used to think that monetary success in life was a big deal and a sort of measuring stick, but now I think that actually a career that creates value in others lives is more on what it’s about.
It’s the same idea of having children vs. never having any. The un-parent might be happier on a superficial level as there are less daily annoyances but the parent might be happier on a deeper level. The superstar investment banker (or pick any other money oriented profession) might be happier on a superficial level, but less happy on the deeper more meaningful level than someone who felt they were doing something meaningful with their lives, and touching the lives of others in the way they felt mattered most.
So perhaps what that quote means - on creating meaning in your life and the lives of others - is that one should first to do something meaningful for others and second deciding on what way of giving is most meaningful for you.
I think after you choose a career the second step is just valuing yourself enough to get appropriately compensated, but the primary ideally should be meaning more so than money - if that makes sense.
Source: The New York Times