TED Conversations

jag .



This conversation is closed.

Do you think it's even possible to be 100% happy and fulfilled?If yes, what's your way to do it? If no, why is it so deeply essential to us?

As humans we spend so much (if not all) of our time trying to achieve happiness and fulfillment. Some people try to achieve their happiness from outside themselves, others go inwards towards their thoughts and emotions to achieve happiness. Its something I think about and I'm very interested to hear your opinions :)


Closing Statement from jag .

Thanks everyone for your answers, it was interesting reading them :)

  • Mar 23 2011: I turned my sad life into my mostly happy life just with the simple free practice of gratitude.

    When you get pregnant suddenly the world is full of pregnant women - to you. They were there all along, of course, but you were not attuned to them. It is the same with where our focus is.

    I believe our brains get into little easy grooves and what you focus on you find. My life circumstance is no different but everything about it feels different now because my focus is different, my conversations are different and I can be happy most of the time - if I want to.

    I have been stunned by the power of daily gratitude practice. It has transformed so much of my life.
    • thumb
      Mar 26 2011: kl, great tip.
  • Mar 17 2011: you can't be happy 100% of the time; if you were it would become meaningless. Happiness is only happiness because its opposite exists so if there was only happiness all the time it wouldn't really be happiness. It is a very spiritual question and some religions in particular seem to gel with the true meaning of happiness. Take Buddhism, you do not seek happiness necessarily, or seek money or people or objects. You look inwards and accept that you are suffering, and we all are according to the philosophy, and by accepting this suffering and learning to be there for yourself and your negative emotions and treat them with love and smile on them you can start to become joyous or content or happy or whatever. It seems to me that buddhist monks who spend every day in meditation, and walking meditation absorbing the natural beauty of the world and smiling on it probably are close to happy and fulfilled a great deal of their lives. While it seems against the point of the religion to declare yourself happy and stop WORKING towards happiness, I would say that many of the followers probably are happy. But what I'm saying is that even though apparent happiness and fulfillment probably CAN be achieved, you can't simply shut out your negativity and be happy your whole life. Even if that worked, there is no happy without at least occasional other emotions, in my opinion.
    • thumb
      Mar 17 2011: I agree. You need unhappiness to be able to achieve happiness.
    • thumb
      Mar 18 2011: Yin and yan.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb

      jag . 50+

      • +1
      Mar 17 2011: Interesting, thanks for the comment. Keep it up :)

      'Be yourself, you have no choice'
  • thumb
    Mar 16 2011: Yes, I think one can be 100 % happy.
    In my opinion the key to it lies in the question of how much your expectations and real life experience match.
    If your expectations are constantly unrealistically high, than you run the risk of not being happy. This doesn't mean that one shouldn't have goals and dreams, but only that there must be a reasonable probability of fulfillment of these dreams.
    • thumb
      Mar 17 2011: yh great point, too high expectations can lead to inner resistance.
    • Mar 23 2011: I heard this quote the other day:

      "Expectations are resentments under construction."
      — Anne Lamott
      • Apr 4 2011: The baby kitten was frantically chasing it's tail, going around and around in circles. The mother cat asked, "What are you doing?" The kitten replied, "My tail is happiness, and I'm trying to catch it."
        The mother repled, "Silly kitten, learn from me. My tail is also happiness, but I simply go about my business, and it follows me wherever I go."
        For me, happiness is not a goal to be sought, but rather an after-effect of a life well lived in the present moment. As someone said, "The treasure is in the journey, not in the destination."
  • thumb
    Mar 17 2011: Similar discussion that may interest some: http://www.ted.com/conversations/964/enjoy_every_minute_of_life.html
  • Mar 17 2011: l hope, helpful you

    "Distress teaches vice. Despair is the source of misguidance; and darkness of heart, the source of distress of the spirit." (aphorism)

    "Temporary pains should be smiled on rather than temporary pleasure being smiled on, and should be welcomed. For past pleasures cause one to say: “Alas!”, and “Alas!” is the interpreter of a concealed pain. While past pains cause one to say: “Oh!”, and “Oh!” tells of a permanent pleasure and bounty. ( aphorism)

    "The most wretched, distressed, and suffering of men is the man with no work. For idleness is the cousin of non-existence, while striving is the life of existence and the waking state of life."( aphorism)
  • Mar 17 2011: I recently came across a talk about happiness. I will summarize what i understood. There are 3 ways of seeking happiness.
    1) By active pursuit of happiness (having all the luxurious thing in life, cars etc.....)
    2) Engagement (Partaking in thing you enjoy doing)
    3) Seeking an overarching meaning in life (like helping slum in India like Mother Teresa)
    The problem with the first option is that after a while a person get habituated and in the modern time where there is no limit for expectation, people will look at the things that they don't have rather than what they have.
    The second and third options are stronger and more helpful for contentment and the first option serves as whip and cherry on the cake if you have second and third options.
  • thumb
    Mar 16 2011: We are only humans-fleash and blood as such, we can only stike a balance between being happiness and unhappiness on this Earth. However, its by our actions that direct the ratio between this two poles, thus we must fisrt love ourselves and its only by such that we could love others and, find a greater ratio of happiness.
    • thumb
      Mar 16 2011: Nice comment, yes loving our selves is very important :)
  • Mar 18 2011: Dear friend
    I saw many people look for happiness and relaxation in life. They change many things to achieve it. I saw many super rich family or very important persons who are looking for happiness. Recently, by the many unusual events in my life I understand that if you search your happiness out of yourselves, you won’t find anything. Calm and happiness is a sense has to create in you. It won’t have any reason out of you. In this case if anything happen, you are fulfilled and happy and can spread your feelings to another. I had many bad moments when I was sure no one can help me. At the moment I decide to do not searching happiness and relaxation out of myself, everything is going well.:)
    • thumb

      jag . 50+

      • +1
      Mar 18 2011: great answer, thanks. I agree with not searching for happiness from 'outside', its a waste of time because it is impossible. I'm not very very happy, but I do know that when you look outside, happiness wont come, so the only place left to look is inside :)

      • Mar 21 2011: i just share my personal experience. by the way thanks for your replying. happiness is the most valuble gift from god. i believe in it.
  • Mar 18 2011: Happiness is a state of mind. We choose to be happy by not allowing situations or people affect our mentality. Yes, there are things that are sad, sorrowful happening around us. If we can help we should jump right on, if we are not able to help, them have the empathy and just pray for others. It is how we process our life's situation that makes us happy. Manage the thoughts, live in the present and do not operate on assumptions.
  • thumb
    Mar 18 2011: I think happiness refers to an overarching feeling of well-being. It is hard to say whether one is happy or not -- but one can be satisfied at a particular moment or about a particular thing. Mazlow's Heirarchy has a built-in dissatisfaction that keeps us striving for the next level. Once we start satisfying our basic needs for safety and shelter, we strive to reach higher levels towards self-actualization. Happiness, the way many of us define it, may be a detriment to growth. Attaining a state of 100% happiness is not the goal -- striving for the next level is.

    Read the comment below... Peter said the same thing in fewer words.
  • Mar 18 2011: Isn't the pursuit of happiness what makes us happy. Once you have attained happiness in an area of your life you generally move on to pursue happiness from elsewhere.
  • thumb
    Mar 17 2011: felicita'sia possibile solo ke cn la Certezza Nessuno Al Mondo Mai piu '' soffrira credo ke x la ONU, volutamente Essere Altro ... credo ke cio 'solo sara' possibile Causa di sé le coscienze cambieranno ... . La Felicita 'O Meglio Il Piacere e UNO Stato ke OGNI creatura xsegue in qnt ama Stesso SE E Vuole il Suo bene .... cio' nn dimentikiamo e legato al Piacere di tt Noi Esseri viventi Piante ed Animali e compresi ... Ovvio ke Il Piacere è ' tt' UNO TRA Corpo e Spirito ... ... bacio
  • thumb
    Mar 17 2011: Short answer: No.

    Long answer: It is not possible, because we are creatures of emotion, of hormones, and of desires. Even the most Zen of Buddhists must still battle against passion. Other religions embrace passion, and preach indifference to harm as the solution to negative emotions. The belief in an ultimate good, an ultimate truth, and an ultimate sense of meaning are also quite comforting, but none of this promises happiness all the time, or even to your greatest level of capacity. We all know that material wealth and comforts aren't the source of happiness (though it could be argued that having them does take a load off of one's mind in terms of where lunch will come from).

    The truth is that there's no way to achieve complete happiness, and the reason it is "essential" is merely because we have been raised to believe that we deserve it. It is not essential. Really, nothing is essential. That sounds nihilistic and existential, but really it's the same idea that Solomon puts forth in Ecclesiastes. Your life doesn't mean anything, nobody's does. If you are religious, then the main point of this existence is to prepare for moving on to a better existence, and nothing in this existence matters (except those preparations). If you are an atheist, then there is no better existence, and from an objective, long term point of view, nothing matters at all. Either way, it is up to you to give your own life meaning and fulfillment. Personally, I find the thought that nothing much matters a comfort in itself: it means that if I screw things up it's no big deal. My life can be world-altering, or I can subsistence farm in Tanzania. The one is no more valuable than the other.
  • Mar 17 2011: I believe that happiness and fulfillment are two significant arenas in which secular worldviews have often failed. The religious sector seems much more able to inspire both of these feelings as it tends to deal more in ideals. The religious sector is fundamentally aspirational and offers substantial -- albeit unproven -- promises of ultimate success. This notion of ultimate success is what I find lacking in many secular worldviews, and I believe its lack often produces a lack of happiness and fulfillment.

    On a side note, I find it odd that so many seem unaware of the fact that happiness is a choice. It is not contingent on circumstances or abilities. This is proven by the fact that so many of the world's most unfortunate people are immensely happy, while the most fortunate are often the most miserable. It's all about perspective and the choice to be happy or, perhaps as is more often the case, the choice to be unhappy.
  • thumb
    Mar 17 2011: My view is that as we grow wiser we become less happier.

    The more we become conscious of our reality and bare witness to all the atrocities we begin to question our very existence and our purpose and responsibility in it.
    • thumb
      Mar 17 2011: The older and more conscious of my reality I've become the happier I've become. If you choose to see it, the world is beautiful. This doesn't mean turning your back to the horrible things that are happening, it just means choosing not to make them the focus of how you define your reality.

      There are atrocities, but there are also ways to alleviate the pain of the people going through those atrocities. That is where purpose, responsibility, and (for myself anyway) the meaning of existence come from.
    • thumb
      Mar 18 2011: I am more a Taoist than a Buddhist, but I sometimes agree with Buddha that life is full of sadness.
      • thumb
        Mar 19 2011: Hey Eugene, whats the main difference between being a taoist and a buddhist?

        My understanding is that the Buddha said attatchment is the cause of all suffering, so inwards to allieviate suffering.
    • thumb
      Mar 18 2011: I disagree.

      In it's best sense wisdom generally implies depth of understanding as a human or, of "being". As opposed to knowledge, which implies depth of information or data. And I quibble that meditation and reflection alone can't achieve joy, without intentional engagement of pain.

      Engaging difficulties within self and with others allows us to grow through and with them. We suffer most when we deny pain. The continual practice of facing and, more so, feeling pain, is much "messier" than meditation, but both serve equal roles to cleanse and renew us and "make room" for emotional growth and equally powerful experiences of joy.

      I'd add that when we engage authentic feelings of happiness and sadness in community with others, the effects are amplified and, in turn, reflected back to us. Spiritual leaders like Ghandii and Dalai Lama are good examples. They embody a balance of meditative reflection and purposeful living. Important to note this model requires literal (not just spiritual or intellectual) work on efforts to solve cultural issues that distribute pain (injustice) unfairly. Thus such "healers" are healed through often brutal work in pursuit of abetting others' happiness.

      Why so many view them as our most wise leaders, I'd argue.
  • thumb
    Mar 15 2011: I think this discussion is more religious than logical (although I can see some logic in it) As humans we all have a longing for eternal happiness, yet we can't. We want to be happy, but we should remember to live a good life on Earth so we can have eternal life with Jesus in heaven. We feel happy best when we help others. (this is the religious part)
    For the logic, I think it depends on the person on the way they try to be happy. Some people just feel a need to be kind to people while others are selfish and don't want to share. Its just human nature. (i'm not really sure, but this is what I think)
    • thumb
      Mar 15 2011: Interesting, thanks. Your view was more the religious viewpoint. There are also spiritual viewpoints (Getting happiness from inside, from being conscious of ones mental-emotional state and using methods like the sedona method or meditation to become more internally happy and alleviate all suffering) and the aetheist viewpoint (I'm not sure what this is lol), social (happiness comes from being in a scoiety and having deep relationships with other),etc.