Thursday, August 11, 2011


Me: How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?
Myself: How happy am I about what?
Me: About everything. How happy are you in general?
Myself: Right at this minute?
Me: Sure. Right at this minute. How happy are you?
Myself, Well, so-so, I guess. Maybe 5. I certainly can’t say I’m delighted to be answering these boring questions. We are on holidays, you know, or perhaps you’ve forgotten. Seems as if you have us thinking about some pretty serious stuff.
Me: Serious stuff? We’ve been thinking about happiness. How serious can that be?
Myself: Pretty serious when we’re supposed to rate our happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. Looks like psychological research to me, the kind we’d be thinking about at work.
Me: exactly. It is what we’d be thinking about at work, if we were in the mood and if we had spare time. But right now we’re on holidays, and we’re having fun, and we’d got time to think. We’ve got time to be thinking and reading about happiness, which is why I’m wondering how happy you are.
Myself: Well, I’m very happy to be on holidays. I’ve been having a great time seeing friends, working in the garden, spending time with family, having little adventures, finding places in the city that I hadn’t known about before.
Me: So if you are very happy, then that must count for more than 5 out of 10. I’ll raise it to 8, maybe 9. How happy do you think you’d be if we were at work?
Myself: I don’t know. It depends which day, maybe even which hour. It’s just like holidays. One minute you are 5 and the next you are 9. It goes up and down.
Me: the pleasure part goes up and down.
Myself: The pleasure part? What other part is there to happiness?
Me: According to Martin Seligman, 2 other parts, meaning and engagement. In fact, it appears that meaning and engagement may be even more important than pleasure when it comes to being happy.
Myself: Meaning and engagement? What are they?
Me: Meaning is whether you think your life is important, whether it seems to matter. Engagement is about the things you do. Do they seem important?
Myself: Well I guess we must be pretty happy then.
Me: How do you mean?
Myself: Well, here we are, at home on vacation, reading research articles and thinking about things that pertain to work. And in a minute, we’re going to stop this conversation and go to a flower show. Then we are having company over for dinner. Nobody’s making us think about happiness, or go to a flower show. We’re doing these things because we like to. They give us pleasure. And when we go back to work, we’ll tell everyone how much fun we had on holidays. And it won’t matter that we are wasting work time thinking about holidays, because we were thinking about work when we were on holidays. Sounds like a happy life to me.

Schueller, S. & Seligman, M. (2010). Pursuit of pleasure, engagement, and meaning: Relationships to subjective and objective measures of well-being, The Journal of Positive Psychology 5(4) 253-263.

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