Working for Values will Make You Happy

Working for Values will Make You Happy

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Want to be happy? Simple. Maximize pleasure and minimize pain!

This advice is as good as this one: Want to be rich? Simple. Buy low and sell high!

The fact is that people can be happy while in pain and unhappy while experiencing pleasure.

This brilliant observation was made by Harvard University psychologist, William McDougall, nearly one hundred years ago, still holds true.

Talking about present times, a psychologist by the name of Steven Reiss recently faced a life threatening illness. As he waited for A liver transplant, he began to ponder such metaphysical questions as the meaning of life and the true nature of happiness. He surveyed more than 6,000 people and asked them what they desired in their lives and what would make them happy.

Based on this survey, Reiss offers new insights on happiness in his book, The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Happiness and Define Our Personalities. He believes that everything we experience as meaningful can be traced to these 16 basic desires.

So, the author has given us something like an "Inventory of Happiness" composed of the 16 basic desires with good description so you can compare and identify which ones you desire strongly. These basic desires hold a key to one's happiness. The ones that you strongly desire are the keys to your happiness. Try to satisfy those, provided they match the values you uphold in your life. Note, if they don't agree with your true values, satisfying them will not make you happier.

The 16 basic desires are listed below. I have taken some liberty in changing them from the format and text in which they were presented by the author. Each one is provided with a leading question to help you determine if you desire it "strongly" or not.
1. Curiosity. Do you have a thirst for knowledge?
2. Acceptance. Do you have a hard time coping with criticism?
3. Order. Does it upset you when things are out of place?
4. Physical Activity: Is physical fitness very important to you?
5. Honor: Are principles and loyalty very important to you?
6. Power: Do you often seek leadership roles?
7. Independence: Do you think you won't be happy if you're not independent and self-reliant?
8. Social contact: Do other people know you as a fun-loving person?
9. Family: Does your family come first for you?
10. Status: Are you impressed with people who own expensive things?
11. Idealism: Compared with most people, are you more concerned with social causes?
12. Vengeance: Is it very important for you to get even with those who insult or offend you?
13. Romance: Is seeking and/or receiving love very important in your life? Here is an alternate question for people who are more inclined towards sex: Compared to your peers, do you spend much more time pursuing or having sex?
14. Eating: Do you love to eat and often fantasize about food?
15. Saving: Do you love to save for the future or hate to throw things away?
16. Tranquility: Instead of noise and excitement, do you seek calm and tranquility?

Be factual and objective in your evaluation. Sometimes, we think that a particular quality or value is important to us, but our actions indicate otherwise. Take for example the cliché people often use, "I will give anything to…" but in reality, they give nothing.

Having identified your strong desires, prioritize them. Reiss advises to just select five or six desires. Do those agree with the values you uphold in your life? Are those values right and would they do good for you and others? Take for example the desire for revenge. One may have strong desire for seeking revenge. When one succeeds in taking revenge, it may momentarily make him or her happy. But, what good it will do for others?

Pursuit of right values brings happiness. Pleasure and happiness are often opposite. Hence, pursuit of pleasure for sake of pleasure is bound to create unhappiness in time. Strive for value-based happiness.

People who should be called "successful" are those who constantly turn to family, relationships, faith, careers and clean fun and leisure to satisfy their most important desires.

When we feel our lives have meaning, which is to fulfill a deeper and larger purpose in the universe, we experience a spiritual satisfaction. Without spiritual satisfaction, a life is not truly lived.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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