Who is Happy?

Are you happy? Am I? Do I want to be? What does that even mean?

So much is being said and done around happiness these days. I want to share with you a few talks which really helped me clarify why the idea of happiness and the pursuit of it make me anxious. and decide what I want to do about it.

Experience and Remembering

First, Daniel Kahneman talks about the difference between the experiencing self and the remembered self. So it might be more worthwhile to decide if you want to remember being happy or you want to experience being happy. There will be different strategies depending on your choice. Watch the TED talk here:

Experience V Memory

For more surprising discoveries about how your brain and decision making works, read his latest tome: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Types of Happiness

Second, from another giant in the field of psychology, Martin Seligman, the man who turned psychology from a science of disease to also include a science of health. Martin talks about three types of happiness: pleasure, engagement, and purpose. Again, your strategies for pursuing happiness will greatly depend on your conscious or unconscious preferences between these three.

3 Forms of Happiness

(to go straight to the highly relevant bit, fast forward to minute 9.)

So if you are questing for happiness, try drawing a 2×3 grid. Rate how important each is to you:

  1. Experience Pleasure
  2. Remember Pleasure
  3. Experience Flow/Engagement
  4. Remember Flow/Engagement
  5. Experience Purpose
  6. Remember Purpose

Be aware that experiencing pleasure habituates…you get less out of it over time. And if often differs from person to person based on an inborn ability. You have less agency about maintaining that form of happiness (while it may seem like you have some ability in any moment to seek it out). If experiencing pleasure is important to you, work on mindfulness. If remembering pleasure is important to you, give time to reflection and documentation. Engage in nostalgic activities: scrap book, journal, document your pleasure.


Flow and engagement has been deeply studied by Me High Cheek Sent Me High. I mean Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Check out his TED talk or read one of his books like Flow.


Flow, by the very nature of it is difficult if not impossible to be aware of experiencing. And, there are clear paths to doing it more. Remembering flow or engagement also is going to require reflection on how engaged you were while in the state of flow. Document that you experienced it, what it felt like, and what helped give rise to it.

Strangely, living for purpose can also seem to counter the idea of being happy or experiencing pleasure. And yet, it is the path to deep long lasting contentment. To experience more purpose, there are numerous books and articles on finding and living on purpose. To remember more purpose, again, do more to reflect on and document or harvest the purpose work you do.

I know I am really weak at the remembering purpose piece and it is where I want to get more of my happiness from, so it is where I think I need to start now.

Where will you begin?

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