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How to Lead a Happier, More Meaningful Life

Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior

Happiness and meaning in life are elusive concepts. According to the 7th World Happiness Report, the U.S. ranks 19th in measures of happiness. Why so low? According to the report, bouts of depression, suicidal ideation and addiction to drugs make it more difficult for Americans to feel happy and lead fulfilling lives.

It goes much deeper. Why is happiness seemingly fleeting? I believe it’s because self-serving behavior and blindness to ethical issues are key failings in the pursuit of happiness and meaning.

We need to learn to make choices in life that lead to greater happiness—a feeling that our life is going well. We also need to dedicate ourselves to the ethical pursuit of greater meaning in life through personal relationships, workplace interactions and social networking activities.

Achieving these results and enhancing our well-being requires learning certain ethical skills and decision-making processes that help us to focus on doing things right, not wrong; making good decisions, not bad ones. In my upcoming book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior, I explain how to make decisions that not only improve the quality of your life but that of others as well. Doing so helps to bring happiness to all and to bring back civility to society. High Res-Beyond Happiness and Meaning Front Cover

I’ve found over the years that many people fail to see how ethics can improve their relationships. They focus on self-interest and not the needs of others. Some folks have forgotten the lesson we all learned in Kindergarten – to follow the Golden Rule.

One problem is not everyone understands what the Golden Rule is. The usual definition is: Treat Others the Way You Wish to be Treated. The problem here is others may not have the same value system. We may want to be treated truthfully at all times. But, others may not have a problem with shading the truth or downright lying to us.

A better definition is: Treat Others the Way You Wish They Would Treat You. This creates a standard of behavior that you believe all people should follow.

Other values that seem to have fallen by the waist side and make it more difficult to achieve happiness and meaning are a lack of kindness towards each other, not being compassionate and incivility.

It used to be we, as a society, were dedicated to improving the well-being of all people, not only our well-being. However, during the past 20-30 years, we’ve all seen that acts of selfishness and outright greed may have no consequences. Some people ask: Why should I do the right thing when so many “succeed” by doing wrong things?

Ethics is all about what we do when no one is looking. If we take advantage of others, focus on our own needs rather than the broader needs of the community and act without regard to how our actions affect others, it does become more difficult to gain meaning in life. The reason is other folks, and society at large, will not hold us in high esteem.

The pursuit of happiness and meaning is an ongoing challenge especially in today’s social-media driven culture where the anonymity of communication may lead to posting criticisms and harsh comments about others online. How can there be consequences if we aren’t held accountable, as would be the case if the other party knew who we are: if we were talking one on one? Also, some people seek instant gratification and like to rant and drop their emotional baggage on others.

If you are interested in learning more about being happy and gaining greater meaning in life, I hope you will consider reading my forthcoming book. For more information, contact me at: steve@ethicssage.com.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 13, 2019. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.

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