Is your life meaningful? Do you experience a general feeling of well-being? Is the happiness you feel enduring?
According to Professor Steven Reiss, there are two kinds of happiness: feel-good happiness and values-based happiness. Feel-good happiness refers to the pleasant sensations people experience when they are watching a good movie, attending a fun party, or eating their favorite dessert. Values-based happiness refers to the deep sense of satisfaction people experience when their lives are meaningful.
Unlike the temporary nature of feel-good happiness, values-based happiness is enduring in part because it can be experienced again and again through recollection. Parents, for example, can experience values-based happiness merely by remembering the joy they felt while raising their children. Further, values-based happiness is meaningful despite the absence of feel-good happiness. When individuals give blood to help a loved one, they can feel good about themselves even though the actual sensations of donating blood are unpleasant.
In The Science of Motivation®, true happiness comes from meaning, and meaning comes from pursuing a lifestyle that affirms an individual’s basic desires and values. The first step in finding values-based happiness is to follow Socrates’s maxim to “know thyself.” The Reiss Motivation Profile®, which assesses a person’s deepest desires, was developed for just this purpose. Once the individual knows his most important needs and values, the second step is to identify which of his basic desires are being satisfied and which are being frustrated by his current lifestyle. For example, a person with a strong need for the RMP Order motive places great value on structure and stability. Such an individual will experience satisfaction in a career that requires planning and organizing but will be frustrated in a job that demands flexibility and spontaneity. The third step in the quest for values-based happiness is for the individual to match himself to people and situations that naturally affirm his values.
The satisfaction of our deepest desires is the key to achieving values-based happiness – that is, to an enduring sense that our lives have meaning. Pleasurable sensations are not enough.