The Happiness Trap

At the Center for Fulfillment, we focus broadly on helping clients achieve lives of meaning and fulfillment, not just happiness. One of dozens of positive emotions that contribute to a life of fulfillment, most of the time the narrow pursuit of happiness, without consideration of other forms of flourishing, backfires, leaving us disappointed and frustrated.

The Pursuit of Happiness


happinessMany people strive for pursuit of happiness, but may not understand the implications of such a feat. Instead, the Center for Fulfillment aims to coach you to a life of fulfillment, which includes but goes beyond happiness. Our modern understanding of happiness was developed after centuries spent focusing on the alleviation of suffering, which falls just short of what we might perceive to be happiness. Positive psychology works for both alleviating suffering and improving the lives of healthy people.



Happiness is but one of the dozens of positive emotions. And it can be experienced in completely different states. If you ask, “Are you happy?” I could answer in the present. "Yes, at the moment, sitting here drinking coffee with you, I am happy". Or you could answer in reflection: thinking back to the sum of all my life choices, “Yes, I am happy with my life and the choices I've made".


Happiness is a complex set of emotions with many different meanings and interpretations. It's best to aim to bring more positive emotions into one's life, rather than narrowly aiming for the elusive and fleeting sense of "happiness". Other positive emotions include joy, satisfaction, amusement, awe, serenity, curiosity, pride -- and many more. Positive emotions are unique in that they can be experienced in the past, the present, and the future, such as hope. Each is distinct, but uniquely different from the narrow goal of happiness. 


Happiness is a topic that has been studied from Aristotle to Freud. For decades, scientists have asked the question: what makes people happy. Is it consistent feelings of extreme joy? Is it laughing daily? Is it a lack of negative moments in a person’s life? Is it money? Is it family, friends, satisfaction at work? Is what’s good for the goose necessarily good for the gander?



If you ask a painter while he's painting: "Are you happy", his answer might be "no". Rather than reporting happiness, he's in a different state that's viewed as greater than happiness. Time goes by fast. He doesn't deliberately think, he uses his emotions and experience. He leverages his strengths to create. He doesn't pay attention to personal needs. He doesn't report being happy, but rather he's in a state of "flow". 


happinessAs Daniel Kahneman, the first psychologist to win the Nobel Prize in Economics argues in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, the study of happiness is quite complex, and people have been messing it up for years. Recent research has revealed that focusing on happiness is not the path to happiness.  


When we focus on the question, “how happy am I?”, we necessarily reflect back to a time our memory tells us was the happiest. We’re notoriously terrible at recalling past events, but we do so in terms of a weight of positivity. When we do that, we unconsciously compare  that fleeting memory of happiness to our current situation.



When we compare our current situation to a happier memory of the past, we inevitably come to the conclusion that in the present moment, we’re not the happiest we could be. We remember being happier at some point in the past. Such a cycle is as continual as it is toxic. Rather, it’s best to focus on our present situation, and look forward to a future of fulfillment. Fulfillment is a measurable, attainable goal -- and working with the Center for Fulfillment, you’ll learn the tools to build resilience and positive emotions to protect against bad times. And to use that reserve of positivity to report fulfillment in the future.


Solve the Happiness Puzzle


Learn to make the right life changes to accomplish what you want. There's more to life than the fleeting emotion of happiness, and Tali will help you find those aspects and incorporate more positive emotions in your life; and of equal importance, learn how to turn negative events that set you back into positive experiences through which you learn and grow.