I asked this question to my audience of 25 corporate executives while facilitating a training session on Motivation and inspiration. The responses I got were varied and wide spread. People found happiness in amassing wealth, purchasing latest electronic gadgets, visiting places, establishing new relationships, owning sizeable houses, adopting to latest fashion, watching movies, playing games, watching cricket matches, gossiping and so on and so forth. Nothing very unusual, considering the fact that we are living in a materialistic fast-paced world where technology reigns supreme. No wonder people tend to derive momentary motivation from all such activities. But do these mundane activities really inspire one to live a fuller life? A life of satisfaction and realization?
Abraham Maslow’s need hierarchy, one of the oldest and widely accepted theories of motivation based on satisfaction of human needs at various levels as a source of motivation is something which needs to be understood in this context. Maslow explains that in order to be perpetually motivated one has to go up and reach the tip of the pyramid i.e. reach the level self actualization.
Maslow’s Need Hierarchy (represented as a pyramid with more basic needs at the bottom)
(image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki)
This level of need refers to realization of a person’s full potential. What a person likes to do or is capable of doing he must do that to get inspired. In other words a painter is never tired of painting and a musician is never tired of playing music. That means if a person is interested in inventing something new and is capable of doing it he will never need any external impulse to get motivated. He will be so engrossed in his work that he will derive internal satisfaction and supreme happiness from his work itself. This is real happiness and the ultimate motivator.
All external impulses enumerated by my audience above are temporary motivators. Once you get the thing you desire your motivation is gone. But if you are an internally satisfied individual and derive pleasure from what you are doing you enjoy your work and get eternal happiness. You never feel tired of working long hours and the more you work the more refreshing you feel. This is my idea of real happiness.
The real happiness comes from within. It does not lie in the outside world. In a later stage Maslow came up with a newer dimension of need, Self Transcendence: The self finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself. And what could be this higher goal? Spirituality? Altruism??
Have you ever found happiness in the innocent smile of a child?
Have you ever noticed the expression of contentment on the face of a hungry beggar eating the stuff given by you?
Have you ever found the chirping of birds melodious to your ears during dawn or dusk?
And finally, Have you ever experienced the extra ordinary pleasure of a job well done?