Where Happiness Lies

This week’s Positive Psych Challenge for class involved two activities that were opposite in nature:

1. Do something philanthropic – Do something nice for someone else.

2. Do one thing that is purely hedonistic – Participate in an activity that will make you feel good.

I think this week’s challenge was the hardest yet; it required a lot of thinking and also keeping an eye open for opportunities to engage in either 1. or 2. It also required me to define what I personally took each challenge to mean.

I began to think of what doing something for others entailed. This led me to ponder altruism; doing something completely for someone else with absolutely no benefit to yourself. Many times we might do something for someone else, but doing so may give us something in return such as recognition or material or monetary gain. But that’s not altruism. Altruism is setting aside your own needs and helping someone else. This week, I think I was able to accomplish this. A friend was requiring my assistance, however I felt so drained that I was in no position to even want to help her. I could have easily confessed that I was so tired, very hungry, and had a load of work to do before the end of the day, but I didn’t. I knew that she would have understood had I told her, but I also knew that she needed help. So I dropped the pursuit of my own interests in exchange for hers.

I also began to think of something that I could do to accomplish 2 that would make myself feel good. We seem do things for ourselves everyday: choosing the foods that we like, fun ways to spend our time, who we’d like to spend our time with, or the places we’d like to go. Therefore, I believe that 1. is the hardest to do because you must set aside your wants for those of others. I think doing things that make yourself feel good is important and necessary to well being, however, doing those things at the expense of others is where the danger lies.

Happiness lies in the midst of both doing things for yourself and doing things for others. Both are necessary. If you are only pursuing your own interests, you miss out on the joy that comes from doing things for others. Nevertheless, at the same time, if you are always self-sacrificing, you will drain yourself out.

What do you think is easiest to do? Doing something completely for others, or completely for yourself?

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    takwana said,

    I think the trickiest part lies in the heart that motivates us to do these things. If you do something for someone else without your heart truly being in it, I dont think thats a true act of kindness/generosity – its just a chore. I think this is why its so much easier to do things for ourselves, because we really truly want to do these things. When we get to a point when we can put as much heart into doing things for others as we do for ourselves, then both “tasks” will be equally “easy”.
    I didnt use the word altruism because I dont think such a thing exists nor do I believe its relevant. Whats relevant to me are true acts/pure motives.

    • 2

      amandakait said,

      I definitely agree. And think it’s important to get to a point where doing something for others comes second nature.

      Altruism is definitely a debatable term. And I wrote this post knowing full well its weaknesses as a definition. Seems like in everything we do there is always some sort of benefit given to us, even if it is just recognition from others or our own satisfaction for having done it.

      Thanks for you comment :)

  2. 3

    julieandlouie said,

    Dearest, I think your positive psych posts are incredible :) they are just a delight to read and it’s nice to be able to past on happiness! (obviously I’ve been sort of copying you with my posts :p) tee hee!


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