Things v. Experiences v. Meaningful Struggles - Which Leads to More Happiness?
In Viktor Frankl's classic book, Man's Search For Meaning, he identified three ways people find meaning in life: (1) love, (2) work, and (3) suffering. The last one is puzzling because on its face "suffering" doesn't seem connected to meaning and happiness.
However, in my experience, meaningful struggles have lead to some of the greatest, long lasting happiness. Below is a comparison of my experiences in seeking happiness through things, experiences, and struggles.
With "things," I have found that there is a temporary bump in happiness that goes away over time.
I have found experiences and memories to generate deeper, lasting happiness over time than things, particularly with people you share connections.
Struggles behave differently than the other two. Rather than starting with an uptick in happiness, you often experience intense negativity. As you climb out of the "valley of despair," happiness grows and often in my experience the happiness is longer lasting. As an added bonus, shared suffering seems to be one of the strongest bonding mechanism between people I have ever experienced.
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About a year ago, I signed up for a mental toughness class that involved an absolutely awful exercise -- both physically and mentally taxing in a group environment that quickly led to some real emotional pain. The "valley of despair" was deep in that exercise, but as a team, the group pulled through it to the other side in large part by the individuals putting the team first over their own individual suffering. We all got through it and bonded as result. Having experienced that level of suffering, everyday irritations seem much less bothersome. I have also had several good laughs with some of the group reflecting on that beat down.
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Based on my history, I believe meaningful struggles are one of the best ways to find lasting happiness as well as meaning. Just remember the stories you tell yourself while in "valley of despair" often determine your success, so be careful about where you allow your attention to linger.
Where do you find the most happiness -- things, experiences, or meaningful struggles?
You also may be interested on our post regarding Stuff v. Experiences - What Kind of Spending Increases Happiness?
In addition to the Friday Happiness Post and Thriving Attorney, Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas. He also co-founded Project K, a charity devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time. Click to read more about Darin Klemchuk's practice as an intellectual property lawyer.