Have you ever wondered what happiness is? Your answer will probably coincide with something material, like having money. But it may also be that your answer is related to the satisfaction of some goal you have set, such as finishing a degree; or to achieving your highest desire, such as living in Miami. How satisfying that would be, right?
But have you stopped to think about whether you really need to get it to be happy? What is the price you are paying for it?
Speaking of Needs
Since Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation (1943), author belonging to the humanist current of psychology, human beings have a series of universal needs. To satisfy all of them would lead us to a state of complete personal well-being and, with it, to achieve happiness. To satisfy these needs, impulses and motivations arise. In this way, Maslow proposes a pyramid of needs.
- Physiological : base of the pyramid. Biological needs that ensure survival, such as eating or sleeping.
- Need : more related to the feeling of confidence and tranquillity.
- Affiliation : social needs related to family, social environment, etc.
- Recognition : achieving prestige, recognition, etc.
- Self-realization : apex of the pyramid Related to spiritual or moral development, search for a mission in life, desire to grow, etc.
Happiness in today’s world
These needs drive our motivation. Thus, according to this author, happiness would be achieved through the satisfaction of all of them . And, although there are some controversies, it seems that Maslow’s Pyramid is quite widespread among the population. The problem comes when we commonly mistake the concept of self-realization with the maximum reach of our goals and we focus only on that, leaving aside other needs or motivations.
The present moment we are going through is characterized by the collective idea that every effort has its reward. In this way, the idea of constant effort alongside the somewhat competitive world in which we live can awaken a similar one: if we want to go far, we must be the best. And so, in one way or another, we begin to immerse ourselves in a spiral of achievement that is never completely satisfied.
A very characteristic example are those parents who instill in their children that an 8 is better than a 9 and that, despite having obtained an 8, they must strive to improve until they achieve a higher grade. And after the 9, comes the 10. It’s as if we always have to reach the top.
In this way, we establish from a young age some internal rules through which we categorize our achievements: important and less important. This labelling and the pursuit of objectives could be adaptive , as it gives meaning to our lives.
But are we really self-actualizing? The moment we stop doing the things we like to do permanently to dedicate ourselves completely to this academic or work effort, auto-slavery arises, so to speak. That is, we have gone from fighting for our interests and our goals in a healthy way, to becoming slaves of them. We are gradually losing everything that also produced gratification, such as going to the movies, being with friends or walking in a park.
How can we avoid it?
Some recommendations are as follows.
1. Don’t stop doing what we’ve always liked to do
Although it is true that we may like our work so much that it almost becomes our hobby, we should try to have another type of alternative leisure that allows us to relax and disconnect, like reading novels, watching movies, going for a run, etc.
2. Set realistic and sequential objectives
It’s the key to not getting frustrated.
3. Taking breaks
Not only to perform other tasks but simply to be with ourselves . Meditation can be a good way to rest, and it can also have many other positive effects.
4. Planning and organizing time
It is important to keep in mind that, if we plan well, we can find time to do what we want to do at that moment.
5. Accepting us
Each of us has unique limitations and characteristics. Welcome them and take advantage of your qualities .
- Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.