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Happiness vs. Satisfaction

Greater Than Financial | By Wakefield Hare | Tue Jul 05 2022

I use the word “satisfaction” instead of “happiness” intentionally. “Happy” focuses more on the current feeling or mood, whereas “satisfaction” seems to imply deeper, longer-lasting fulfillment. 

Imagine winning a brand new car or truck. You would be very happy to have that experience and feeling of a new vehicle. But how would you feel once a child spills a drink in the back? What about when it gets door-dinged while parked? What about when an acquaintance gets a similar model, just a bit newer and nicer? Still happy?

A few years ago, I bought 3 tickets to the Chiefs vs the Colts game on Sunday night football for myself and my two oldest kids. I was happy the moment I purchased the tickets, and my happiness endured through the weeks leading up to the game. My happiness continued as my daughter and son laid eyes on Arrowhead Stadium with its BBQ smoke filled parking lot. My happiness increased as the kids said “wow!” and “look at that” numerous times as we took in the sights and sounds of tailgating. My happiness nearly crescendoed as we took our seats and witnessed the excitement and energy of a primetime Arrowhead Stadium for one of the best football teams in the nation. Our football team!

The peak of my happiness was when Patrick Mahomes made a career highlight play near the start of the 2nd quarter, a 27-yard scrambling touchdown strike to Byron Pringle. The stadium went nuts, and my kids were ecstatic. Then my happiness started to disappear. Patrick Mahomes' ankle got dinged and he proceeded to play one of the worst games of his career. By the end of halftime, my kids were so tired, they stopped caring about the game, and by the end of the 3rd quarter it was clear the Chiefs weren’t going to win. 

Happiness was gone, but my satisfaction was deep. How can that be? Because despite the Chiefs playing poorly, I had an incredible experience with two of my beautiful, healthy children. We spent a lot of money on that Sunday, but we still had plenty of money as a family to meet all of our pending needs. 

I would have been happier if the Chiefs won, and probably even more satisfied. And while a Chiefs win was likely (they were 11 point favorites), the game outcome was never in our control. Because of that reality, I was able to focus on what would satisfy me: an amazing first time experience with my kids. 

Slow down for a bit and reflect on your life. And as you slow down, consider the things you thought would make you happy and ask yourself how that really turned out. Then consider how you might use your time and money differently next year to give you a more enduring sense of satisfaction. 

Don’t settle for pleasures that are here today and gone tomorrow. Instead, use what’s in front of you to discover what will truly make you feel alive. Invest your time and money on those things. You won’t regret it.