Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pleasant Life, The Good Life and the Meaning of Life

OK, I'm now as far as the chapter on Meaning in Dan Pink's book A Whole New Mind.  Part of this chapter deals with what makes us happy.  Not surprisingly we are happy when we are engaged in satisfying work, avoiding negative events and emotions and being in a meaningful relationship with a rich social network.

The first rung on the happiness ladder is the Pleasant Life - here people have positive emotions about the past, present and future.  Higher up the ladder is what is called the Good Life - this enhanced feeling of happiness comes from using your strengths and all the things you are good at to achieve satisfaction with your life.  This is how some people refer to teaching (and other jobs) when they talk about it being a vocation or a calling.  When we feel like this about our work we are getting satisfaction from the work itself, not for the material or financial benefits it brings.  Finally, at the highest level of all is Meaning - going beyond yourself and using your strengths and abilities for something larger than you are, or in the words of the mission statement of my old school:
to inspire and empower each student to pursue individual excellence and to enrich the world
Dan Pink talks about the 20-10 test.  He asks, would you still be doing what you are doing now if you had $20 million in the bank, or knew you had no more than 10 years still to live?  If your answer is yes, then obviously you have found the meaning in your life.

Photo Credit:  Life is Good by Bob Formal

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