I was reading an article by Martin E. P. Seligman on authentic happiness called Pleasure, Meaning, and Eudemonia. The big idea is that there are three paths to a happy life: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and The Meaningful Life.
Here’s my favorite take away:
“His target was life satisfaction. He found that both the Good Life and the Meaningful Life were related to life satisfaction: the more Eudemonia or the more Meaning, the more life satisfaction. Astonishingly, however, the amount of pleasure in life did not add to life satisfaction.”
According to Seligman, The Pleasant Life, just as it sounds, is about having as many pleasures as possible in life, and having the skills to amplify your pleasures. The Good Life is about recrafting your work, love, friendship, leisure, and parenting to use your strengths and spend more time in your values to have more flow in life. The Meaningful Life is about using your strengths in the service of something that is bigger than you are.
Here’s the surprise: You don’t need to be cheery to be happy, and pleasure does not equal happiness. Instead, you can focus on eudemonic pursuits to improve your satisfaction with life. Rather than focus on hedonic motives such as pleasure, enjoyment, and comfort, you can focus on eudemonic motives, such as personal growth, personal excellence, and contributing to the lives of others.