We recently offered tips on finding happiness in your work as well as how to find the environment where you thrive. New reports also suggest that happiness is related to your intrinsic verses extrinsic motivations and your response mechanisms.
Photo by Smudgie’s Ghost.
Personal finance weblog Get Rich Slowly highlights a happiness study conducted by the University of Rochester that examines the effects of various “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” goals on increasing happiness. Specifically, the study asked participants how much they valued instrinsic factors such as having “deep, enduring relationships” and “helping others improve their lives” compared with extrinsic ones, like wealth and power.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the study concluded that while we often assume that achieving goals increases happiness (however short-lived), that’s not necessarily true where extrinsic motivations are concerned. In short, fame and fortune won’t bring you happiness. (Where have we heard that before?)
And while real-life considerations—such as paying the rent—can necessitate aiming for those extrinsic goals, when we focus entirely on these kinds of values, this leads to what the article calls the “hedonic treadmill” trap, whereby we work harder and harder without ever achieving happiness.
This month’s issue of The Atlantic takes another perspective on happiness, highlighting a study—The Harvard Study of Adult Development—that began in 1937. It offers a much-more nuanced look at what determines happiness. Among its more interesting details is an examination of how our defence mechanisms are related to happiness.
At the bottom of the pile are the unhealthiest, or “psychotic,” adaptations—like paranoia, hallucination, or megalomania—which, while they can serve to make reality tolerable for the person employing them, seem crazy to anyone else. One level up are the “immature” adaptations, which include acting out, passive aggression, hypochondria, projection, and fantasy…The healthiest, or “mature,” adaptations include altruism, humour, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship).
Check out the full posts for the complete findings and related videos, then let us know what you think in the comments.