Happiness as a Function of Purpose #4 #cong22


Is happiness a function of purpose? If so, is it really possible to ‘make’ oneself happy through effort and self-direction?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. There are many different types of happiness.
  2. Some types of happiness are passivity-based, and some are effort-based.
  3. Passivity-based happiness results in higher peaks of joy, but is more fleeting.
  4. Effort-based happiness is driven through purpose, and is longer lasting.

About Craig Brown

Craig Brown works in the field of people and performance.

He obtained his undergraduate degree in literature from Acadia University in Canada, and his MBA from Kingston University in London.

Craig was honoured to be the first non-Irish person to receive a Galway People of the Year Award for his work with local charities.

Craig lives in south Galway with his wife and three children.

Contacting Craig Brown

You can connect with Craig on LinkedIn.

By Craig Brown

Why do we want to be happy?

Have you ever really thought about it? We all know we want to be happy, but do any of us really know why?

There is considerable evidence to suggest that being happy gave our forebearers an evolutionary advantage in surviving . Being happy… ‘made us fitter, more attuned to our environment, more social, more energetic—and because happy people were more apt to survive, they were more likely to pass on their happiness genes.’

In modern terms, it turns out that ‘people who are happy make more money, are more likely to get married, have stronger immune systems, and more friends.’ So, all in all, it seems like a good idea to try to be happy.

We place so much emphasis on happiness, that some countries have attempted to embed happiness into their national fabric. The Americans have enshrined the right to the pursuit of happiness in their Declaration of Independence. In Bhutan, they have gone so far as to create a Gross National Happiness index.

Here’s the thing though. What surprised me when doing my research is that there are in fact many different types of happiness , which broadly fall under two different categories.

Passivity-based happiness can include things like joy, excitement, pleasure, and glee. These tend to result from unexpected events, or events with little or no pre-planning – like running into an old friend walking down the street, going on a roller coaster, or finding a €20 note in an old coat. The sensation is fuelled by dopamine and only occurs in reaction to unexpected or semi-unexpected events. The feeling can be very strong but is often fleeting sometimes leaving a sense of emptiness afterward.

Effort-based happiness can include things like pride, optimism, and perhaps even love and contentment. While some of these forms of happiness can happen accidentally, they are, by and large, a function of effort applied to purpose.

For example, if I spend months building a house, in the end I can definitely feel a sense of pride, and probably also contentment and optimism for the future. Rather than having a large spike of dopamine associated with passivity-based happiness, effort-based happiness is longer-lasting. You can also live it over and over again as you remember the effort it took to build your house. The same sense of well-being can also be applied to how you feel after working hard on your job, your marriage, and raising your children.

And what is the fuel that drives effort-based happiness?


Purpose gives us the energy, stamina, and drive to complete those things that we deem worthwhile.

In summary, in order to find lasting happiness, first find purpose and then apply effort. The results will be long-lasting.

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