Nearly 100 years ago, Albert Einstein shared his theory of happiness with the world, stating “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness”. Even still, only a third of people today report feeling happy and despite our culture’s obsession with the pursuit of personal happiness, understanding how to lead a fulfilled life is the secret to your resilience and success.
Many psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment. Researchers found that chasing happiness can be self-defeating, because the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed.
For those who may not know where to start to live a more fulfilled life, these four pillars might help set you on a more meaningful path.
Value others and find people who value you
The first pillar of meaning is “belonging,” which comes from being in relationships where you’re valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well. The clearest examples of sharing this bond can be seen between yourself and your family or friends.
But be warned that you shouldn’t confuse this with “cheap forms of belonging,” where people only value you not for who you are, but for what you believe or who you hate.
True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals and it’s a choice – you can choose to cultivate belonging with others.
Find your purpose
Finding your purpose is not the same thing as finding that job that makes you happy, purpose is less about what you want than about what you give.
Given that most adults spend a majority of their time at work, it makes sense that we channel our sense of purpose through our jobs, where we contribute a lot of our time and feel needed.
But the lack of purpose many feel at work is translating into disengagement at work, unemployment and low labour force participation.
Of course, you don’t have to find purpose at work, but purpose gives you something to live for and adding it gives you a reason to move forward.
Transcendent states are those rare moments when you’re lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality.
In other words, it’s an experience that feels larger than life. But different people will experience transcendence in different ways.
Transcendence looks like getting “so in the zone” and losing all sense of time and place.
In the study, students who looked up at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for just one minute felt less self-centered and even behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone.
We don’t always realise that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them.
Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts.
Even if you aren’t thrilled about how things in your life are playing out, find time to reflect in a thoughtful way allows you to understand your life in a more meaningful way.
Happiness comes and goes, but when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to.