The good life involves the experience of ‘gratifications’, which are experiences that draw upon our particular skills and strengths, bringing the experience of ‘becoming lost’ in a pursuit. “It is the total absorption, the suspension of consciousness, and the flow that gratifications produce that defines liking these activities—not the presence of pleasure,” wrote Seligman, a researcher and the ‘father of positive psychology’, of the gratifications. “Total immersion, in fact, blocks consciousness, and emotions are completely absent.”
Gratifications don’t necessarily bring cheerfulness or ecstasy, but they do bring total engagement, lack of self-consciousness, and fulfillment. The beneficial experience of gratifications is more lasting than that of pleasures. And gratifications are accessible to those who may not be naturally bubbly and cheerful. Seligman wrote, “The great benefit of distinguishing between pleasure and gratification is that even the bottom half of the population (three billion people) in terms of positive affect is not consigned to unhappiness. Rather, their happiness lies in the abundant gratifications that they can have and hold.”
Adding gratifications to one’s life doesn’t mean excluding pleasures; both can fit well. In addition to the mix of pleasures described for a pleasant life, adding gratifications can lead to greater, lasting fulfillment and more positive feelings, a richer mix of positive experience. Such gratifications may include a hobbies—everything from knitting to rock climbing to painting creative works of art; a 'fun job'--a fulfilling work life that includes tasks that are suited to an individual’s strengths—a job as a composer for a musically-oriented person, or a job doing computer programming for someone whose skill set matches these tasks; or activities in general life that stimulate and challenge, like taking courses to further one’s career, or leading a committee in the PTA.
What are some ways that you can work gratifications into your life and live more of 'the good life'? Share your thoughts in the Reader Response article below. Also, you'll find articles with more ideas linked below as well. The important thing to remember is that we can all be living the good life, and it has nothing to do with winning the lottery!
Peterson, C. A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2006.
Seligman, M. E. P. Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002.