Psychologist Martin Seligman studies “happiness” (a problematic term that is very hard to define)… and I was reading Tim Ferriss’ blog when I came across Martin’s words, originally published in the most recent issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly:
There are three levels to happiness: pleasure, the delight you get from chocolate, fast cards, and sex; engagement, the feeling of “flow” you get when you’re doing something you’re good at; and meaning, the fulfillment you get from being engaged in an effort greater than yourself. Pleasure is ephemeral and contributes very little to real happiness… but meaningful engagement brings lasting contentment.
For classmates who are headed towards retirement, Seligman offers the following tip: “Material objects have almost no role in positive emotion. As you organize your retirement, spend it on meaningful engagement. Don’t squander your savings on boats and houses.”
It’s pretty simple, actually. Figure out what you’re good at. And then apply your strengths to a greater purpose. And don’t forget to cultivate optimism along the way.