A recent Gallup poll surveyed the happiness levels of Americans and has found that the levels are at a four-year high. Almost 60 percent of Americans say they feel happy, and they do not have a lot of stress or worry.
The Center for Disease Control looked at another aspect of life and found that about 40% of Americans haven’t discovered a satisfying life purpose, and almost 25% of Americans report they do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.
The quest for happiness and the search for meaning have different results. Researchers agree that when a person engages in a single-minded quest for happiness he discovers a pot of dissatisfaction at the end of his rainbow.
This was the sad case of the prodigal son. Victor Frankl showed an understanding of this paradox when he said: “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”
Frankl’s understanding of meaning, life’s purpose, and happiness was formed under the harsh conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl wrote of his experience in the 1946 best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. He had come to the conclusion that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing—meaning. His fellow prisoners who had found meaning in the dire conditions of the death camp were much more resilient than those who had not.
Frankl’s conclusions have been supported by research that shows the value of having purpose and meaning in life:
• It increases overall well-being and life satisfaction
• It improves mental and physical health
• It enhances resiliency, and self-esteem, and it decreases the chances of depression.
The Journal of Positive Psychology reported on research by Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Aaker and her colleagues, found that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.”
The Apostle Paul knew a little something about givers and takers: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
How about you? Are you a giver or a taker? When you find the answer to this question, you may find your purpose in life.