We are living in an age of material abundance. We have access to an array of material things and gadgets ranging from cars, LED TVs, Ipads, iphones, laptops and many more gizmos that have truly transformed our lives from the way we commute, consume entertainment, communicate and do our daily work. The Internet and world wide web has given us instant access to rich information and knowledge at unprecedented levels that was inconceivable just 20 years ago. The modern homes of today are powered by new technologies and smart computers that can open the garage gate or switch on the air conditioner just from your mobile phone. Life has truly been transformed and have made many hard tasks in the past, easy now. Even the richest kings who lived 2 centuries ago, did not have access to some of the modern luxuries and life style advances that we all now take it for granted. It’s a phenomenal revolution and we should all be feeling happy and empowered. Yet in spite of all the abundance of material things and access to material comforts, we still don’t feel like Kings and Queens. It’s a paradox that although we have everything and our life styles have greatly improved than before, there is a feeling of lack and emptiness. Lack of time, lack of fulfillment and a lack of happiness.. Many people go through a life of treadmill existence, working harder and working longer to get hold of bigger homes, bigger cars, longer vacation and so on in the hope that it will ultimately lead them to experience happiness. Yet many are unhappy.
Our judgment of what will make us happy is usually wrong
Over the years, research done on this subject by psychologists show that our perception of what will make us happy (such as getting a better job, buying a new car, moving into a bigger home, going on a vacation to an exotic locale and so on) does not have a lasting effect on happiness. It does produce a short term boost to our happiness, but human beings quickly revert back to their previous happy or unhappy state. Dan Gilbert writes about this in his book “Stumbling on happiness”. Watch Dr. Dan Gilbert’s TED talk on what makes us happy:
Something meaningful to do is what makes people happy
Some years ago a Hungarian psychologist Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi addressed this age old issue of ‘what makes people happy’ in his book called ‘Flow’. He surmised that meaning work is what makes people ultimately happy. Although this idea has been around for a long time, he was the first to do extensive research on this subject and define the phenomenon called ‘FLOW’.
His research found that people are in a happy state of mind when they are in a FLOW. He defined FLOW as a state where someone is fully immersed with the activity on hand to the point of losing track of time. His research suggested that when someone is in a Flow (fully absorbed and engrossed with their activity) they were usually in a happy state. He also found that to have an elevated state of happiness, the activity must also be optimally challenging and meaningful, creating a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment upon completing the task.
Watch Mihaly’s TED talk on Flow: the secret to happiness
Identify your flow activities to stay happy
Engaging in activities that keep you in a Flow is important for happiness much more than acquiring material things. Set some challenging and meaningful goals such that when you accomplish them you have a sense of achievement. Let your activities support the fulfillment of your goals. When your activities are aligned this way, you will often find the motivation to get on with the tasks that help you achieve your goals. As you make progress towards fulfilling your goals, keep visualizing the rewards, recognition, meaning and fulfillment you will get when you accomplish them. Focus, concentrate and ignore distractions when doing your chosen tasks, to be in the Flow and to experience happiness.
As Buddha said, “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”.
FLOW helps travel this path.