Purpose versus pleasure
Dolan’s positive psychology research found that experiences of happiness fell under two broad categories, those that felt pleasurable, i.e., joyful, content, excited; and those that felt purposeful, i.e., worthwhile, meaningful, fulfilling.
The secret, he says, is finding balance between bing a pleasure machine or and purpose engine. Because while it’s possible for life to be meaningful but not happy, few people manage to be happy if their lives feel meaningless. Human beings simply have too many existential needs to strike that kind of balance.
When I was just out of college, I experienced significant amounts of pleasure, but hadn’t yet cracked the code on purpose. Not that my life felt meaningless and unfulfilling, it’s just that my relationships, both internally to my identity, my body, my mind and my spirit; and externally to my friends, to my family, to my work and to my community, hadn’t quite matured yet.
But as I take more laps around this race called life, I’m starting to understand the difference between pleasurable happiness and purposeful happiness.
Both are available. Both are necessary. But the latter is more sustainable.
And we tip the happiness scale in our favor if we major in purpose and minor in pleasure.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Would the five people closest to you think of you as pleasure machine or a purpose engine?
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