In the simplest terms, happiness is not a distinguishing feature of being human, but meaning (a bigger purpose in life) is.
I couldn’t resist sharing the article linked below. For one thing, it takes as its starting point one of my two or three most valuable booms (I reread my dog-eared, noted up copy about once every year – “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.
This is an extraordinary little book. If you’ve never read it, don’t just read it, but make sure you own a copy because I believe you’ll want to reread it in the future.
There is no question, to Frankl meaning was the critical factor that made for a good and valuably lived life. he determined that having meaning was the single biggest determinant of which prisoners survived the nazi concentration camps. The article takes an interesting perspective, putting this up against the current proliferation of books and sources advocating happiness. This has flowed out of the Positive Psychology movement (the father of this movement, Marty Selgman of Pennsylvania University is cited in the article).
I see Positive Psychology as a very necessary corollary to the psychology movement that had taken its lead from medicine, seeing its business as diagnosing and repairing ‘broken people’. Instead, the focus has shifted to enabling human potential through understanding of the human mind, motivations and drive. However, i feel it’s a bit unfair to suggest that Positive Psychology is simply about some kind of hedonistic pursuit of personal happiness in the moment. There is plenty in it that accords with Frankl’s focus on Meaning.
The article also cross-references another favourite book of mine, Baumeister’s “Willpower:
Willpower – Amazon
If any readers want to check on more of what is being said and advocated by the Positive Psychology movement I would recommend books by Shaun Achor:
Shaun Achor: The Happiness Advantage – Amazon
Any of the books by Tal Ben Shahar, who used to deliver the most popular course at Harvard University:
Tal Ben Shahar’s Website
Educators should, I believe, be thoroughly interested in all aspects and issues of human potential. These are all aspects that are about how people can live more fulfilling lives and i believe there are skills, techniques and mindsets that can be incorporated in to our work with children to give them greater scope and more tools to live both happy and meaningful lives.