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What Is Happiness and Why Is It So Important

Aug 17, 2007
We are wealthier and more technologically advanced than at any time in our history. Living standards have improved vastly over the last 50 years. We have more things in our lives than ever before - colour televisions, mp3 & iPod music players, luxury family cars, designer clothes and fancy colognes.

We can afford breathtaking holidays traveling to far-flung places. We can surf the net at super high speed like never before, enabling us incredible access to information and ever-evolving levels of entertainment. We can alter our bodies with plastic surgery, changing ourselves physically so that the person we see in the mirror is the person we've perhaps imagined in our minds! The 21st century really is the cutting edge century of technology and opportunity; we live longer, and we live more.

But are we any happier?
In 1957 Gallop, the UK's top market research company recorded 52% of the population describing themselves as very happy. By 2005, the same question brought in a response indicating only 36% now felt themselves very happy, and these levels mirror data from America and most other industrialized countries in the Western World.

How happy are you?
Further studies recently sought to build a world ranking of countries whose populations described themselves as very happy. The little Mediterranean island of Malta topped the table, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, and Columbia, with the UK coming up in 21st place!

Take a look at the graph below and notice how your particular country rated, and then ask yourself what factors might have contributed to that rating. Remember, these results are responses of REAL PEOPLE, so what causes us to feel happy, and what do you imagine has influenced a sense of happiness for them?

Life Satisfaction Index: how countries rated

Rank Country Happiness rating

1 Malta 74
2= Denmark 73
Switzerland 73
Columbia 73
5 Iceland 72
6= Ireland 71
Netherlands 71
8= Canada 69
Finland 69
Ghana 69
Sweden 69
12 Luxembourg 68
13= Guatemala 67
Norway 67
Uruguay 67
USA 67
17= New Zealand 66
Australia 66
Mexico 66
Belgium 65
21= Great Britain 64
Germany 64

Does this mean we're all more sad and walking around with our heads full of doom and gloom these days? Not necessarily. Findings also show a far greater amount of people generally finding themselves moderately happy than had been the case in similar surveys 50 years ago. As leading psychologist at the University of Illinois, Professor Ed Diener pointed out, "The idea that modern society is a sink of unhappiness is wrong".

In fact, 92% of people surveyed in the UK described themselves as fairly happy, rather than very happy in the new millennium. Only 8% said they were very unhappy.

Focus: what do you want?
As a coach, the first question I ask a new client is what do you want to achieve? The answer is usually a long list of what they want more of, such as work promotion, a new career, bigger/nicer house, faster car, better/new or more exciting relationships, greater wealth, etc. Then I ask what they really want and what the priorities are, to which the reply is almost always:

Better relationship(s)
Better health
More fulfilling career
A deeper connection with inner-self.

Question 2: What, if you had all that, would you really, really, really want in your life?

The answer is 100% of the time one word, happiness - I want to be happy. That's the bottom line.

Why do you want to be happy?
And just in case you're reading this and asking yourself why happiness is so important in our lives, this brings me to the next question; why do you want to be happy?

What causes us all to pursue happiness? Is it because happiness comes with a big cheque, such as might happen if you achieved a lottery win? No. Is it because by achieving happiness you believe life might never again be tough, that challenge would never again come knocking on your door? Certainly not. The reason we all want to be happy is because of the most basic human need, to be loved.

Economic growth is important but we shouldn't sacrifice other things that are equally important, for example human relationships after all - we all need love and connection.
Lord Layard, former advisor to the England's Labour Government

Think about it, without love, we die. We enter the world from our mother, through her we have life, and because of her or someone else that loves us we are fed and nurture. We are loved. We learn that by accepting someone else's love we grow and become strong. However, as so often happens in our teenage years or early adulthood, we move into an area of evolution called independence. Here we rebel, we make mistakes, we move away from home, we create a new version of who we are, the adult us. Yet sometimes along the way we forget about that fundamental connection, what it gives us; love, as well as what causes us to feel; happiness.

There is of course another, final step in our evolutionary process after independence, that of interdependence. True interdependence means we co-exist with others from a place of genuine love and co-operation, in that we add something to their lives, and they add something extra to ours. From a coaching point of view, interdependence gives us choice, it creates options, it makes it more likely that we will move forward in a respectful and eloquent way. In short, this is the route to true happiness.

I interpret interdependence as karma in action, the law of the Universe, the basis of so many religious beliefs; what you give, so shall you receive. It's as simple and as basic as that.

However, so many people get stuck in the evolutionary area between independence and interdependence. They fear something will be lost if they open up and give something of themselves away. Yet, whilst independence can be an attractive and useful attribute to have, without the connection and co-operation that interdependence brings, our lives are left cold, lonely, and ultimately unhappy. As the richest movie stars in the world often find, it can be lonely at the top. Loosing deep-seated human connection, becoming distrustful and disconnected with friends, family and colleagues, yet because of great performances and success, they reach the top of their trees yet when interviewed talk about how lonely they feel at the top.

It's lonely and cold at the top... lonely and cold. And you know what? I can live without money, but I can't live without love.
Judy Garland
About the Author
Find out create more happiness right now and visit http://www.mikeblissett.com.
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