Whoa! The delightful Bernie de Koven points to this provocative bit of research: Pleasure, Meaning and Eudaimonia from the Authentic Happiness Newsletter. (I haven’t met Eudaimonia or her sister Hedonia since my days doing Philosophy at Oxford, but don’t get put off by the jargon.)
So the core thesis in Authentic Happiness is that there are three very different routes to happiness. First the Pleasant Life, consisting in having as many pleasures as possible and having the skills to amplify the pleasures. This is, of course, the only true kind of happiness on the Hollywood view. Second, the Good Life, which consists in knowing what your signature strengths are, and then recrafting your work, love, friendship, leisure and parenting to use those strengths to have more flow in life. Third, the Meaningful Life, which consists of using your signature strengths in the service of something that you believe is larger than you are.
And now here is research to show
that successfully pursuing pleasure does not necessarily lead to life satisfaction, but successfully pursuing the Good Life and the Meaningful Life does lead to higher life satisfaction.
Boy, does that make sense to me.