There’s more to life than just being happy

By Kayla Hunt, Columnist

Is our culture become more preoccupied with attaining happiness? Is that the ultimate goal that everyone is working towards?

In Emily Esfahani Smith’s TEDTalk, “There’s more to life than being happy,” she discusses how our culture is becoming more obsessed with happiness. Smith dives deeper by saying that we should be more focused on living a meaningful life. In her presentation, Smith defines the four pillars of a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. 

Belonging is when you are in relationships in which you feel valued and where you value others. Purpose is something you live for and what drives you forward. Transcendence is when you feel connected to a higher reality. Storytelling is the story you tell about yourself and helps you understand how you became the person that you are. 

Smith explains that happiness is a temporary state that comes and goes. She contends that continuously chasing happiness can make people unhappy. Smith stresses that these four pillars are essential for when things in life are bad because it gives us something to hold on to. 

Smith’s point of view is that because happiness is temporary, we need something deeper that keeps us pushing through our day to day lives. She suggests that if we lose happiness, then we may believe that we lost our purpose, which are two different things. Happiness is an emotion that we attain, and our purpose/meaning is the answer to why we want to live. 

I created a variety of Instagram polls and questionnaires to see how some of my followers defined happiness and what it meant to them. 

When asked, “Is achieving happiness one of your ultimate goals in life?” 34/35 respondents said yes. 

When asked, “How would you define happiness?” one respondent, @chyressnyder_ said: “Stability in all aspects- mentally, emotionally, financially and having supportive relations.” Another respondent, @robert_sobus, answered: “Being honest with myself and doing the best I can.” 

When asked, “What makes you happy/fulfilled?” one respondent, @ceenilee said, “Being where I want to be at in life will fulfill me and because I’m not there yet life just doesn’t seem as great.” 

Happiness is subjective and every individual has different fulfillments in life. Many define happiness for themselves by whatever makes them feel joy and content. Everyone has different notions of happiness because we all seek fulfillment in different ways.

From the responses I received, it has come under the impression that people correlate happiness with their purpose. Many people receive happiness from fulfilling their purpose in life. 

In my introduction to ethics class last semester, we discussed happiness and the philosopher Aristotle’s perspective on it. Aristotle stated that happiness is the ultimate good in life, but for us to not confuse happiness with pleasure. 

“I’d agree with Aristotle that our focus should be on living our best possible lives,” said Professor Daniel Clements. “Pleasure is definitely temporary, but I’d say fulfillment is longer-lasting. My brother is raising his infant son, which involves a lot of pain (lack of sleep) but he finds it very fulfilling.”

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