True Happiness Hides Behind a Life of Meaning and Purpose


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The new American mania lately has been the pursuit of individual happiness. It seems like everyone is writing and talking about happiness. I have a lot of research surrounding happiness by virtue of studying the behaviors, activities, thinking and emotions of over 350 rich and poor people over a five-year period. They were all in search of happiness, but each group had there own definition of it and, as a result, each group pursued it differently.

What I learned from my five years of studying these two groups is that those who were successful in life pursued one type of happiness and those who were unsuccessful in life pursued another type of happiness. The poor group, or those who were unsuccessful in life, pursued short-term happiness while the rich group, or those who were successful in life, pursued long-term happiness. The effects of this are self evident.

When I asked the people in my study who were successful,  “Are You Happy?”

82 % said YES

When I asked the people in my study who were struggling with a life of poverty the same question

98% said NO

Short-term happiness is the result of engaging in activities from which you derive immediate pleasure or immediate gratification. This might include drinking alcohol, doing drugs, gambling, watching an abundance of TV, spending hours on the Internet, reading books of fiction (fantasy, science fiction, romance or suspense), or engaging in arousal activities such as sex-related activities, skydiving, amusement parks, etc. These short-term happiness activities pay off immediately. You get an instant dopamine rush and feel good almost instantly. But then the happiness feeling fades away and you eventually recoil back to being unfulfilled, sad or even depressed. So, you seek out another short-term happiness activity to get that dopamine rush. It’s a vicious cycle, chasing one happiness activity after another. Yet, despite all of that happiness chasing, you are never truly happy for long.

Long-term happiness, on the other hand, is a completely different type of happiness. Those successful individuals in my study who found long-term happiness were not on a singular mission to find happiness. They were after something completely different and far more significant – they were on a quest for a life of meaning. They found meaning by pursuing something they were passionate about, something that gave their life purpose, meaning and fulfillment. They were pursuing their dreams!

True happiness cannot be pursued as an end to itself. Those 82% of successful individuals in my study who found happiness devoted their entire lives to the pursuit of their dreams. They created a script or blueprint of their ideal future lives, defined the dreams that made that life possible and then spent the rest of their lives creating, pursuing and achieving the goals that turned each dream into a reality. It wasn’t always easy. Oftentimes, they encountered obstacles and roadblocks that created stress, doubt and uncertainty. But their passion for pursuing something meaningful gave them the strength to forge on. Ultimately, they found their long-term happiness within the journey itself. True happiness, I learned, hides behind a life of meaning and purpose.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Thanks for the article and for spending time to do all that research! Looking at my own life, I do see that the pursuit of my dreams and passions has created a lot more long-term happiness for me. However, I also feel that there’s nothing wrong with going for both short-term and long-term happiness at the same time.

  2. You are completly right regarding short-term happiness. Even impulsive purchases come in this category. However, after a short time one feels guilty about wasting money and that makes a person sad. But how does one stop this as will-power doesn’t seem to help. Infact one feels better after donating that item to someone as it’s presence continues to make one feel guilty.
    It’s great I am getting all this knowledge from you, while you must have invested a lot of time and energy in your research. It does make me feel lucky.
    As job prospects aren’t great at present, one so called “friend” advised me to take loans. However, I am totally against that as loans surely make ones life miserable.
    I’d rather take whatever small works which though pay little but it’s still ones own money. I take up whenever available exam supervision, paper correction. Better to keep trying instead of taking loans.

  3. I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome blog!

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