Satisfied or Happy? Which is Better?

Is it better to be happy – or satisfied?   Part of the difficulty of this conversation is what do we mean by happiness? Ed Diener (one of the fathers of positive psychology) talks about this issue on his site. To paraphrase - when we ask people how “satisfied” they are we get an answer which is based on their overall life satisfaction.  They consider a long period of time and compare themselves to others.  To do this they resort to tangibles such as wealth, status, all looks.

However if you phrase the question as “How happy are you?” the respondent seems to go “inside” and check their feeling state - hence they resort to how nice their neighbour was that morning or whether they have a full social calendar. 

Another  confounding factor is what people remember – i.e when asked about their happiness do they conjure up memories of good or bad events. How do they frame their life?  This is more about what they choose to recall from memory, than how happy they are.  Interestingly, laughter is a positive event that most people find easy to remember.  This is why laughter yoga works so well in workplace settings.

Life Satisfaction

Going back to “life satisfaction” - I don’t think money is as important as the status it confers.  What people really want is to feel valuable and ‘important’ - at least in some aspect of their life.  Everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere.  Everyone wants validation.  Advertising promotes only one sort of validation - it is one based on comparison with others on a material basis i.e the things we can see, own, touch.  Laughter on the other hand, is a way to feel positive while engaging with each other - laughter breaks down hierarchies, and laughter builds teams.

If we could validate and value people for what they bring in all their uniqueness, if we could create multiple hierarchies then we wouldn’t all need to be climbing the one narrow ladder (shop, consume).  We would be happier with less (and the environment would be happier). 

Multiple hierarchies, validation and valuing everyone for their part = lots of happiness?  Hhmmm sounds like team-work …

Get In Touch

If you’d like to build your team, get your executive working better together, and improve morale and performance, have Cris deliver one of his engrossing keynote talks (eg: “Happy Hour Is 9-To-5”, “Innovation Readiness”), combined with a laughter session.  Cris is Australia’s leading corporate laughter leader. Get in touch with Cris: or (+ 61) 0438 545 607.