Is happiness the most important purpose in life?

Most people prefer being happy over being sad.  In fact, happiness makes us healthier.  It boosts our immune system, is good for the heart, and likely helps us live longer.  So why wouldn’t happiness be the most important purpose in life?

But are other emotions just as important?  Are other goals in life just as essential?

Have at it, dear readers: Is happiness the most important purpose in life?

Related questions:  What is true happiness?  Why is achieving it so difficult?  Is there a limit to how happy you can be?  Why do we put up with unhappiness?

 

6 thoughts on “Is happiness the most important purpose in life?”

  1. Cognitive psychology has mostly shown that humans are very bad and predicting what will make us happy, and thus we carry out actions or pursue goals that not only do not make us happy, but in fact can make us unhappy. This is in part because happiness is an immeasurable goal–how do we even know when we have reached happiness? What is “peak happiness?”

    I would suggest that the most important purpose in life (if there can be just one) is to figure out one’s purpose and how to get there. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of relationships and connections do you want to create with other people? What is your authentic self? Figuring out these things and then figuring out how you can best reach those goals and then carrying out actions to do so will certainly bring some unhappiness, but will also result in happiness that is organic and does not have to be chased.

    1. As an aspiring Christian, my purpose is to know and love God, neighbor, and self. Easier said than done. I’m willing to suffer for what I believe; but with suffering comes joy and peace. Is joy and peace the same as happiness? I think they’re related but not the same. Thanks you Rebecca and Michael for asking/commenting.

  2. I’d even go so far as to say that we should actively try to be unhappy — to an extent.

    While it is a natural instinct to want to be happy (at least it is with me) I know that I accomplish more, and become a better person, through overcoming obstacles and struggling against adversity.

    It is a constant balancing act for me, between allowing myself to be too complacent and putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to learn and to grow.

    Part of the problem may be that we can have differing ideas of happiness: I can be happy with a full belly and a roof over my head, but I can also be happy reaching my potential and growing as a person. When the two kinds of happiness are not in agreement, what then?

    1. “When the two kinds of happiness are not in agreement, what then?” Lee, great question – it speaks to my situation. I often think my wife and I are a little too comfortable with “full bellies and a roof over our heads.” I used to have a dream of serving in the Peace Corps in the Third World. Now, my dreams are more realistic. My church is asking us to choose a mission for ourselves this year. My mission? To bring healing to everyone I encounter. Sounds a bit grandiose, I know. I can’t do it without God’s help, but as someone said, “nothing is impossible with God.”

      “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” – Mother Teresa

  3. I agree with what Rebecca posted. I believe the purpose of life is to find purpose. Being entertained is fleeting. Being happy can come and go. But a strong sense of purpose provides a deep, stable sense of satisfaction that endures regardless of the other fluctuations in life.

    I also agree with Lee’s post. It’s important to maintain a certain amount of discomfort in life. Comfortable people don’t change. And people who don’t change ultimately fall out of touch with what’s going on in both their lives as well as the broader world.

    Years ago I worked for the Minnesota Senior Federation and came to the conclusion that the passage of time doesn’t make you more conservative. It reveals how conservative (lower case “c”) you were to begin with. When you’re young, you are, by default, a product of your times. But, as time passes, are you open-minded? reflective? self-critical? adaptive?

    If you are, then, like one 70-something women I knew, you wrap up your day at Senior Fed early in order to attend a LGBTQ allies meeting. If you’re not, then, like a 20-something women I know, you announce to everyone during the 2016 presidential endorsement campaign that you will no longer be friends within any who was backing Clinton over Sanders.

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