Meaningfulness vs. Happiness | Johanna Wise

Meaningfulness vs. Happiness | Johanna Wise

  • 01 Jan 2017
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Johanna WiseI help professionals who feel stuck: stuck in a career because that’s what they trained for, stuck in a job because of the pay, stuck in a project because they don’t know how to say “no,” stuck without a job because they can’t overcome what makes them feel stuck.

So it’s ironic that I found myself stuck. All the post-election news and turmoil had my head spinning and my emotions in roller coaster mode. Add foot surgery to the mix, precluding me from my favorite activities of hiking, dancing, and jazzercising, and I fell into a deep funk.

As the days grew shorter, the weather colder and bleaker, I went stir-crazy, cooped up indoors for a month. So of course I started feeling sorry for myself – specifically, I did not feel happy. I sought happiness by reading Facebook posts, by complaining to my family and friends, by streaming The West Wing, and by eating lots of sugary and fatty goodness. Nope – no long-term happiness found there. I watched webinars on how to grow my business, how to streamline my business, how to work fewer hours and earn more money. Also a dead end. And then a miracle occurred; a friend referred me to an article entitled: A Psychiatrist Who Survived The Holocaust Explains Why Meaningfulness Matters More Than Happiness.

Like a lightning bolt it hit me. When my focus shifted to things I could not control, I mistakenly sought solace in passive activities.

Being is very different from doing. Being does not result in growth. It sucks you into someone else’s reality and needs and causes – most of which does not have personal meaning to you. Doing forces you to choose a direction. It forces you to try new things, to learn from mistakes, to create something that exists only because YOU did it.

And that’s what got me going again: a focus on meaningfulness instead of happiness, on my purpose, my causes, my needs, what drives me, what holds meaning for me – that which exists only because I cause it to exist.


Article originally published on December 13, 2016.

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