Look up the definition of happiness and you will get a variety of responses including:
In her book The How of Happiness, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Sonja Lyubomirsky defined happiness as ‘the experience of joy, contentment, or positive wellbeing, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile’.
This certainly appears a reasonable definition and makes much sense for many situations, but it begs the questions, can I be happy about one thing and unhappy about another at the same time? Is such happiness additive? Can one counteract the other?
Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek gives an alternative. He believes that all sorts of things make us happy, whether it be at work, at home, or even something we or someone else is doing. The feeling from such moments, however, does not last and is indeed temporary. This makes much sense as the happiness we feel as a result of our achievements passes with time.
In this, Sinek argues that the concept of fulfillment is a much deeper concept than happiness; one that connects with us at a deeper level when experienced. He attempts to differentiate the concepts of happiness and fulfillment by drawing a comparison to ‘liking something versus loving something’.
Within this argument, Sinek leaves room for us to not necessarily be happy with all aspects of something and yet still feel deeply fulfilled by it. When applied to our jobs, Sinek states ‘we may not necessarily find happiness in our jobs every day, but we can be fulfilled by our work every day if it makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves’.
This rationale also explains why some people can be very successful in their job and be happy with making their various targets and yet still be unfulfilled by what they do. Recent research suggests that many Australians are not truly happy in their careers and yet remain in their job for reasons such as:
The question is, can we expect more than this? Again, Sinek believes that deep and true fulfillment comes when what we do directly connects with our Why. This mysterious and sometimes elusive concept is our most-deep seated purpose.
When our true purpose is connected to what we do, we can have tough days, we can be disappointed, be unhappy and yet still very fulfilled for we are working in a role that enables us to truly connect with what we believe in. I think education is a terrific example, for regardless how difficult the days are, the opportunity to help grow and develop young people to be the very best they can be, brings me much satisfaction and fulfillment. I am fortunate to have found a career that connects to my Why.
I believe the concept of Why, and the connected personal fulfillment, also goes a long way to understanding our resilience in such roles, as we are committed to a cause or purpose that is intrinsically important to us. This concept may also aid in explaining the difference between those who merely do the minimum requirement of a job versus those who go the extra mile.
Whether you agree with the above or not, it stands to reason that if you are truly committed to what you do, then you are more likely to enjoy it and gain greater satisfaction from doing so. It would seem that what we do is less important than why we do it. When we understand why we do what we do, we can see purpose and connectivity.
I believe the same thinking can be applied to why we join a community, such as a school. There are a plethora of schools on the Gold Coast, all educating students – so, why choose one in particular? Although I have been disappointed on a few occasions with families stating in an enrolment interview that they only wanted to come to our College because of our locality, the vast, vast majority of our families chose to join our College community because they felt that our Why matched theirs; that there was a connection in our purpose; a set of shared beliefs and values; or something in our College’s Values that was important to them. These are compelling reasons and ones that enable you to feel connected.
In these critical and most personal of decisions, the alignment of the Why is indeed important. What we do is broadly irrelevant, as all schools educate students, but our Why, our Mission ‘to challenge the individual to achieve, and to act with purpose and character’ is critically important. It is this Mission (and our ‘Why’) that drives us to create the opportunities that we do for our students; to go the extra mile to assist students or families in need; to develop the leadership and character you see in our students every day; to provide engaging and dynamic learning spaces; and to engage with our community in the manner in which we do. These approaches, or what we do and how we do it, are connected to our ‘Why’ – but it is the ‘Why’ which is indeed central.
In last week’s newsletter, I stated:
“I believe that what we are missing in today’s society is an understanding and commitment to core ethical values; values that are timeless; values that build positive relationships and help us to work together for the benefit of every party in the relationship. Values such as honesty, integrity, kindness, care, compassion, respect and personal responsibility are all too often missing in society and the result is the sole aim of personal gain and the neglect of community.”
In a similar vein, I feel there are times when we disconnect from our Why; disconnect from what is indeed most important to us; and forget those underlying ideals that give us the greatest fulfillment; those that are indeed most important to us and in a fleeting moment make a decision based upon something that is really not of central importance. These decisions cause us stress and angst, as we are permitting a less important factor to take precedence over our personal Why. Separating emotion and focussing on our Why can truly help us make better decisions.
I certainly have difficult days and some in which I can be troubled (like we all can), but always there is the deep-seated fulfillment in the knowledge that I am a small part of a ‘Why’ that enables young people to be the best they can be; part of something so much bigger than myself.
I hope that like me, you too will consider and reflect on your ‘Why’ and see how it connects to your life and the decisions that you make. Knowing ‘Why’ is the key to fulfillment and not fleeting happiness.