What is happiness?
Sounds very philosophical or better yet like the first line of a Morgan Freeman-voiced documentary. Truth be told, we are not here to dissect millennial happiness because that would be a never-ending task. But, we do want to achieve a general understanding, just so that we are all on the same page here. Let me start by saying that happiness is commonly thought of as a state of mind.
Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.― Abraham Lincoln
If as Abe said, our happiness is up to us, then that state of mind is something truly subjective. It means something different to everybody.
What does happiness mean to Millennials?
Now let us put this back into a millennial context. Even in our individual beliefs of happiness, it is possible to identify a common thread amongst the millennial bunch. I have highlighted a few key driving factors that are commonly associated with happiness. In the infographic below, you will see how they interact. Of course, this list could really go on and on, but these can be seen as large encompassing factors. Since people have different priorities, I will give some frequently mentioned examples, just so we get the idea since different people tend to prioritize different factors.
Freedom/ Self-expression/Individuality (in the form of)
- Financial: Being able to get and spend what you want, whether this is for yourself or others.
- Physical: To go where you please.
- Emotional: To express your emotions (e.g. love)
- Love (romantic/familial/friendship/peer)
- Romantic: Being loved in return by the one you love.
- Friendship/familial: Being surrounded by loyal people that care about you and who you also care about.
- Peer: Being respected by those around you.
- Love (romantic/familial/friendship/peer)
- Verbal: To say what is on your mind and engage in verbal discourse.
- Academic: Being able to learn/study/research what you want.
- Creating a satisfying distribution of your time between your career/work life and family/personal life.
Note: These factors are interconnected.
If happiness is the sensation of flying then freedom is how we choose to get ourselves in the air.―TMSH
When it comes to millennial happiness, the words freedom and individuality go hand in hand. We are a generation that attaches great value to self-expression and individuality. One form of self-expression is how we utilize our free time or how we get ourselves in the air. Whichever gust(s) of wind we choose to utilize (e.g. emotional, financial etc.) to help us fly, says a lot about who we are as individuals.
Another more fundamental choice is how we distribute our free time between our personal life and work life.
Story Time: Imagine that you have two helium balloons, black and blue, and you are asked to fill them up. You are instructed to use the minimum required amount of helium to ensure that you are lifted up but you are free to choose how you distribute the air amongst the two balloons. Do you choose to inflate the blue, the black or a combination of the two balloons?
Such is the decision that we face in life as well. This choice indicates a core part of our identity; think of typical examples such as family people and career tigers. These examples are two extremes, most people will find that they are not just one or the other but rather a more complex mix of the two. In other words, most often we choose to inflate not just one balloon but to distribute the air to our liking.
Why is happiness important to millennials?
Why bother? Why attach so much importance to such an abstract state of mind? The truth of the matter is that ‘we want what we want’. We attach great value to happiness because it makes us feel good. At the end of the day, is that not all that many of us strive to achieve? To feel good :). To take it one step further I will refer to Aristotle, who once said that happiness gives our life meaning and purpose. We are no longer just content working our whole lives, we want to enjoy what we do. This is why, for example, we search for jobs that we actually enjoy so that we can ‘work hard and play hard(er)’. A defining saying for the millennial generation is that we no longer ‘live to work’ but rather ‘work to live’. We seek greater fulfillment in life, more often this manifests on a very personal level, in the form of happiness.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.― Mahatma Gandhi
Of course, we cannot always feel good all the time. Many things in life are best consumed in moderations. Yes, believe it or not, even happiness. What is happiness but a dull sensation if we have no counterbalance, to make us truly appreciate the happy moments in life. In other words, we need the lows to make us appreciate the highs. Therefore, a happy life seems to really be about achieving a harmonious state of mind.
As you see, happiness covers and impacts many aspects of our lives. The point here is not to continuously analyze what happiness is made of, but rather how we can achieve and maintain it. In the (upcoming) posts here on TMSH, we will take a look at various aspects of life that fuel our happiness. In doing so, we will help each other to gradually gain a better understanding of the (millennial) state of happiness, and how we can achieve and maintain it in our personal lives.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”