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Happy Hedonism

The Keys to Happiness

As an executive coach, I (Donna) frequently work with leaders who prioritize the achievement of long-term goals.  One might describe coaches and coachees as goal happy!  But it may not be completely true…  Commonly pursued long-term goals include healthier eating, more consistent exercise, and a more disciplined approach to meeting financial retirement goals A pervasive belief is that the disciplined self-control needed to achieve long term goals leads to a happier life than enjoying pleasurable short term activities.  Goals… lead to happy.

Hedonistic Goals?

Not so Fast…Could Hedonism Lead to Happiness? Katharina Bernicker from the University of Zurich and Daniela Becker of Radboud University in the Netherlands bring a slightly more “pleasurable” perspective.  The results of their study scrutinized an individuals’ capacity to focus on hedonistic (short term pursuits that satisfy immediate needs like pleasure and relaxation) goals. They discovered that taking time for relaxation or enjoyable activities creates a higher sense of well-being.  Pleasure and enjoyment contribute at least as much to happiness and satisfaction in life as self-control.  

Focus Matters

The study also found that during moments of enjoyment/relaxation people can be distracted and “thoughts about conflicting long-term goals undermine the immediate need to relax.” “The pursuit of hedonic and long-term goals needn’t be in conflict with one another,” says Bernecker. “Our research shows that both are important and can complement each other in achieving well-being and good health. It is important to find the right balance in everyday life.”

Give Me Room

As more of us blur the line between the geography that represents work and the sacred space we call home, we are finding that more of our clients are reporting greater difficulty in separating from work.  The very environment that once represented rest or a safe haven, our homes, has now become our workplaces.   By defining limits, in space or time, we can begin to separate workspace and time from other activities.  For me, when the workday is complete, it means shutting the door to my home office and staying out.  It also means trying to confine work to my office as much as possible.  

Balancing short-term with long-term, integrating relaxation with drive, and creating distinctive spaces is the recipe that creates a happy us.  A happy us is better us.  Like everything else, balance is the key.  Don’t forget to add happiness to your balance equation.


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