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A true state of joy comes from finding meaning and fulfillment in what one does.  This article shares the difference between temporary pleasures and true happiness, sharing how one can achieve the latter.

When I begin seeing a new client, the first question I always ask is, “How will you know when we’re done?”

Often the client will respond, “I just want to be happy.”

There’s nothing wrong with that of course.  I would be truly concerned about the client who wanted to consciously find more ways to make themselves miserable.

And yet, so many of us do just that:  we spend a lot of time making ourselves miserable.

As Scripture says, “Vanity of vanities!”  We spend so much effort doing work that doesn’t fulfill us, pursuing relationships we know are destructive and plans we know can’t work out.  To make up for it, we look for escape, thinking that if we can just get further away from the life that we’ve created and the stress that accompanies it, then we can finally be happy.  We confuse  authentic happiness with the pursuit of mere pleasure, or ease, or an absence of conflict, and like junk food,  these things can be nice in small doses.  But research shows that there are three ingredients for authentic happiness; meaningfulness, intimacy and virtue. 

Meaningfulness refers to my ability to use my gifts, talents, time, and treasure in a way that both enriches me AND enables me to work for the good of others.

Intimacy is the work I do to make my relationships healthier, deeper, and more rewarding.

And Virtue is my ability to respond to challenges I face with integrity and strength.

The happy person isn’t the one who dies with the most toys, takes the most vacation time, manages to escape the most conflict, or avoids the most stress.  We now know that the authentically happy person is the one who can say that he does work that makes the world a little better, works to build a loving community around him or herself, and demonstrates the ability to live more faithfully to his or her values in the face of trials.

Do you just want to be happy?  Then ask yourself three questions…

1.  What can I do TODAY to use my gifts, talents, abilities, time, talent, or treasure to make someone’s life a little easier or more pleasant?

2.  What can I do TODAY to draw a little bit closer to someone I care about and who I know cares about me?

3.  What can I do TODAY to respond in a little more mature, virtuous way to the problems I’m facing right now?

If you can answer those three questions, you’ll be well on your way to increasing the meaningfulness, intimacy and virtue in your life that leads to authentic happiness.

Gregory Popcak, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people-of-faith find effective solutions to tough marriage, family, and personal problems.

The author of over a dozen popular books integrating solid theological insights and counseling psychology (including; For Better…FOREVER! , Holy Sex!, Parenting with Grace, Beyond the Birds and the Bees), Dr. Popcak directs a group pastoral tele-counseling practice that provides ongoing pastoral psychotherapy services to faithful couples, individuals and families around the world.

Together with his wife and co-author, Lisa Popcak, he hosts More2Life, Airing M-F, Noon-1pm Eastern (Tune in online or to podcasts at http://www.AveMariaRadio.net). A sought after public-speaker, Dr. Greg has been honored to address audiences across North America, Australia, and Hong Kong.

For more info on books, resources, and tele-counseling services visit http://www.CatholicCounselors.com.