It is reasonably uncontentious to say we all want to be happy. Also, that the pursuit of happiness is a key driver for the choices we make and our resultant behaviours. Further, we know more about how our minds work than ever before. And we have access to physical resources which previous generations simply could not imagine – indeed that we could not imagine only a few years ago.
But our societies are less happy – and more depressed – than ever. There are many threads to this. One thread is that happiness has three dimensions and we have come to focus on only one of these.
Dimension 1 – Pleasure: Rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, pleasantness. The pleasures can be externally stimulated, can often be bought, tend to require little effort. They typically experience diminished returns and their pleasures are short lived. Here-in lies the hedonistic treadmill.
Dimension 2 – Gratification: a feeling of time stopping, being totally absorbed in an activity as we effortlessly lose our self-consciousness. This requires concerted effort – there are no shortcuts.
Dimension 3 – Purpose: belonging to and serving something we value and perceive to be bigger than ourselves. Again, this requires effort and often creates a legacy of some form.
My suggestion here is that many have Pleasure, Gratification and Purpose a bit out of balance in favour of the myriad of short-cuts to the pleasures, made available to us ‘within an arm’s reach of desire’ – driving our obsession with disposable, empty, mass consumerism.
So, perhaps a bit of re-balancing may be in order, at the personal level and also the societal level to create the means for more of us to engage in gratifying and purposeful pursuits.