The End Goal = Happiness
Happiness is an end goal – the goal to which all other goals should lead. You want the new car, the promotion, or the perfect summer body because you believe these things will yield more happiness.
Although material goods and improved life circumstances do indeed boost happiness levels, this boost is short-lived. This is due to a concept psychologist refer to as hedonic adaptation.
What is Hedonic Adaptation?
Hedonic adaptation is our natural tendency to adapt to new experiences. Despite significant positive experiences (or even negative experiences for that matter), we eventually return to our baseline level of happiness. Research on lottery winners and accident victims confirms this notion.
One way to limit the effects of hedonic adaptation is to savor the moment.
In other words, enjoy the new car, the vacation, and the promotion while they are still new and exciting. The other way to minimize hedonic adaptation is to practice gratitude and reflect on all that you already have to be thankful for. You may also want to practice gratitude for the simple fact that it has been shown to have countless benefits for both mental and physical health.
With that being said, living in the here-and-now and practicing gratitude alone will not grant you lasting happiness, these are merely strategies to slow the inevitable process of hedonic adaptation.
PERMA Model: A Well-being Theory by Martin Seligman
Positive Psychologist, Martin Seligman, developed a more holistic model for happiness titled the Well-Being Theory. It is comprised of five components – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievements/accomplishments – and is commonly referred to as PERMA.
The variety of pleasant feelings that one experiences ranging from contentment to bliss. It also includes one’s life satisfaction related to their current life standing.
This is the kind of happiness that most of us pursue. The kind that focuses on what we believe will make us feel good in the moment.
Also known as “flow” or “the zone,” engagement occurs when one’s skill at a given task is challenged to the point where the individual can complete the task, but not without exerting a good amount of effort. If the individual’s skill set is superior to the task at hand, this will lead to boredom.
On the other hand, if the task is too difficult, it will lead to anxiety and discomfort. The key to engagement is finding the middle ground between “task difficulty” and an individual’s “skill level”. When in flow, individuals are completely consumed by what they are doing and lose awareness of time and feeling.
As social beings, we have an innate desire for social connection. It is true that some of us are more introverted than others, but we all need to feel a sense of belonging to feel complete.
Establishing healthy relationships is key to overall well-being and some argue that this is the most vital of all the components of PERMA.
The belief that one is contributing to a cause greater than himself. Whether it be work, faith, community, volunteerism, etc., it is vital that one not only work to benefit himself but to benefit something greater than himself.
Striving for and attaining goals. We have a need for improvement. Whether it is a small or large goal is irrelevant as long as one feels that they are working towards something.
If you make PERMA a daily goal, practice living in the moment, and engage in gratitude regularly, you will be closer to achieving lasting happiness. Before you know it, happiness will be PERMeAting your life.