Hamlet with Yorick's skull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the important things about life, which is in limited supply, is the time available; thus we should all have conscious or unconscious strategies to maximize our allocation of time to achieve some goals that are dear to us.
People differ about the importance or relevance of the below outlined goals as per their developmental progress and situational context. While some goals may be more relevant at one stage of one’s life, they may lose relevance at another time and place.
It’s universally acknowledged nowadays, given the sweep of positive psychology sensitizations, that one of the most, if not the most, important goal of life is Happiness. However different people mean different things when they talk about happiness.
I want to add to the above another distinction: a moral/ ethical life that is filled with integrity and gives rise to a feeling of keeping one’s head high and having minimum catastrophic regrets on the death bed. That deeply felt contentment/ satisfaction, and that of being guilt-free/ shame-free, is also desired by many, as an end in itself.
Thus, to my naive mind, there appear at least 4 major goals of life that are worth striving for, as an end in themselves: Happiness, Meaning, Success and Integrity.
We have seen happiness contrasted with meaning before in happiness research and it’s amply clear that a happy life may be at loggerheads with a meaningful life; though most likely they are positively correlated.
Recently Eric Baker contrasted Success with Happiness claiming saying ‘yes’ opens happiness opportunities by keeping us busy, while saying ‘no’ makes us successful by keeping us focused; I agree and extend the argument that saying ‘maybe’ makes us create meaning in life, by being open-minded and open-to-experience; while saying ‘no, but maybe someone else can…’ makes us rise above ourselves and have integrity by connecting and helping others. We all have limited time, and need to learn to say ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe,’ and ‘no, but’ whenever needed. None of the goals, IMHO, should triumph or imbalance one part of life and rule over us. We should be firmly entrenched in the driver's seat and know when to value happiness over success over meaning over integrity and vice versa.
Now I would really like to see some empirical research done on the dissociations and commonalty between happiness and meaning (say in a for-profit environment); meaning and success (say in a non-profit environment); success and integrity/ethics (say in a business environment) etc. etc. and would be really grateful if some readers can point me to relevant research already done in these directions. I’m sure we intuitively can visualize the tradeoffs involved, but it would be good to see where, and in which situations/domains, these are at loggerheads and where they complement each other.