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The importance of being happy

The importance of being happy

Geschreven doorAnouk van Pruissen

14 January 2021

Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash

Why is it important to know more about happiness?

We all want to be happy. All parents want is for their child to be happy. Why is being happy so important and why is it important to know more about happiness?

I have been chasing my own happiness for years. And every time I thought: ‘YES this will make me happy’, the feeling of happiness quickly faded away again. 

Last year, I completed the course ‘The science of well-being’ by Prof. Laurie Santos of Yale University and the insights, which have been backed up by scientific research, are definitely worth sharing. I will discuss 4 topics from the course that I think can help you in your personal and professional development.

3 types of Happy lives

Dr. Martin Seligman is no stranger to those familiar with positive psychology. He is a pioneer in the field of Happiness & Well-being and is regarded as one of the founders of positive psychology.

Seligman distinguishes 3 types of Happy lives:

  1. In the pleasant life, a person will pursue as much pleasure and positive emotions as possible. This happiness comes from a sense of gratitude and appreciation for basic moments of pleasure, our environment and human needs. 
  2. The good life is defined as realising your best strengths and qualities and using them to facilitate and enhance success and fulfilment in work, relationships and goals. This is the passion we know as “being in the zone” or “being in your flow”.
  3. The meaningful life is realised by using our powers to help another or greater good. Purpose or meaning typically has a more powerful, long-lasting effect on happiness than other forms of pleasure by giving our lives greater meaning and purpose.

The beauty of it all is that these 3 lives can be nurtured and developed. By developing your mental and emotional toolkit and building resilience, you can learn to have hope, optimism, gratitude and fulfilment in the face of life’s challenges and setbacks.

Click on this link to watch Dr. Martin Seligman, the founding father of modern positive psychology and his TED talk on the 3 Happy Lives. Really very interesting!

Investing in experiences makes us happier than investing in stuff

This is not a new insight that I have gained from Prof. Laurie Santos’ course. The scientific proof that, for example, buying things does not make me happy in the long run, has made me spend €1500 less on things I don’t need in the past six months. And I found that quite shocking! Not just the amount, but also the fact that I apparently need scientific proof to make this mindset shift. 

I often hear that people find it difficult to put up a large sum of money for coaching, for example. However, if you know that the experience, whether that is coaching, a new training programme or singing lessons, is going to make you happier than that expensive designer bag, then make that investment. Investing in yourself always has a high payoff! 

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

The third theme that stuck with me is the theme of growth mindset. 

In today’s society, the focus is often on the result. Results are important too, but it is also important to look at how to get the best result without ignoring the human need to continue to grow and have a happy life.

A fixed mindset can be described by the following elements:

  • Focus on results and performance
  • Good performance comes naturally
  • If I have to work for it, then I am not smart enough
  • Effort is a bad sign
  • Conceal and hide shortcomings 
  • Holding back and hiding mistakes 

The conviction that people’s basic qualities, their IQ and talent are given traits is the starting point of a fixed mindset. On the other hand, there is the growth mindset, where intelligence can be trained and the basic qualities developed through dedication and hard work.

  • Focus on learning and not on results
  • You have to work hard to perform well
  • Hard work is good, it makes you better
  • Effort is a good sign
  • Make the most of shortcomings
  • Profit from mistakes.

Why are these two mindsets worth mentioning? These mindsets have a different effect on your intrinsic motivation. With a growth mindset, the intrinsic motivation remains present, even when things are not going as planned. With a fixed mindset, on the other hand, intrinsic motivation can be overruled by extrinsic motivation. So, people with a fixed mindset could be unhappier in the long term, then people with a growth mindset.

The last topic I want to address is the WOOP tool.


WOOP is a simple problem solving tool that can be used by anyone and can be very helpful in setting and achieving goals. For example to live healthier, get better grades or to improve social behaviour.

Wish – Think about your wish, your real wish, what you wish for (and not the wish of others).

Outcome – Think about the best possible result, which result gives you the best feeling.

Obstacles – Think of possible obstacles, what stands in the way of fulfilling your wish. Think about your inner obstacles, irrational ideas or bad habits.

Plan – Think about your IF/THEN plan. What can you do to tackle obstacles?  If this happens, then ….

Gabrielle Oettingen is the founder of WOOP and you can find more interesting information at the WOOP website.

Why is it important to know more about happiness?

So, why is it important to know more about happiness? Well, if you know the elements which contribute to happiness and you know where to focus on, things will change for the better. And you will live a happier life. I am living proof.

If you want to know more about the Science of Well-being, you can visit the website or you can ask me for more information!


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