Happiness vs. satisfaction, which do you select?

Do you choose happiness over satisfaction? Maybe you ask, “do I have to pick one over the other?”


Turns out there are people who study these choices people make. As someone who had a difficult childhood, I have a minor obsession with happiness. I have read quite a few books on the topic and I think about happiness quite a bit. 

This book, Happy, that I’m holding in this photo is a book I purchased on June 20th, 2010 at the Denver International Airport. I know that because I’ve held onto this book since then and the receipt was inside the book, as I used it as a bookmark. The book is full of markings and notes that I took as I read the book the first time. I’ve read it a few times since then too!

What happiness will I experience today?

In short, I contemplate the state of happiness often. Mostly because I know that a good part of happiness for myself is expecting to experience happiness every day. I wake up in the morning to do my daily meditation and one of my first thoughts of the day is “What happiness will I experience today?” As the day progresses, I pay attention when moments of happiness occur. 

Lilacs and my dog rolling in the grass

This week one happened as I walked past a lilac bush that radiated a beautiful smell. I stopped to extra sniff the wafting scent of spring and joy. Another occurred when I sat down in the grass as my dog Sam rolled in the grass on his back in pure delight. I rubbed his tummy and laughed at his complete abandon as he lolled about. 

Talking with good friends

One more bit of happiness came last Saturday when I was sitting with my friends Jenny and Monica after Jenny and I had run 6 miles along the Mississippi River and the three of us were talking about gardening, which all of us love. I realized how happy it made me to talk of something so simple with people I admire and enjoy. 

Distinction between happiness and satisfaction

I read an article this week that explored the distinction between happiness and satisfaction. This line particularly caught my attention: 

“Happiness is a momentary experience that arises spontaneously and is fleeting. Meanwhile, satisfaction is a long-term feeling, built over time and based on achieving goals and building the kind of life you admire.”

The article goes on to note that many of us prefer satisfaction over happiness, making choices in how we spend our time that creates life-long satisfaction over the fleeting, momentary happiness. I am a goal oriented person and I’ve achieved many things in my life, which upon reflection does create in me a sense of satisfaction, which is all good and fine. 

Satisfaction isn’t enough

I realized when I didn’t die from my suicide attempt in 2013, that satisfaction with my accomplishments wasn’t all I wanted from this life. My interest in happiness came to the forefront for me. That’s about the time I made the decision to expect happiness in my life every day. I know that happiness is fleeting, even unexpected. Thus it’s even more important to be awake to when happiness appears. 

Good friends make life more happy

One of the things the article mentions is that cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman believes that we feel happiness in the company of others. I figured that out and I realized in 2014 that I didn’t have enough good friends. One of my primary goals for 2015 was to make more friends. Luckily that worked out well for me and today I have more amazing friends than I have ever had in my life. 

Outside party with vaccinated, athlete friends

First row, left to right: Jenny, Nadine, Sheila. Back row, left to right: Anne, Monica, me – the birthday girl! and Marie

In fact, for my 56th birthday, which was two days ago, I had an in-real-life outside party with a group of dear friends who are part of my triathlon community. (All of us are vaccinated!) In fact, a few of us are going camping together in July. I do experience profound happiness when I run, swim, bike, ski, laugh and camp with my friends!

How about you? Which would you pick, happiness or satisfaction? Let me know what you think, I love hearing from you! Please leave a comment!! Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Happiness vs. satisfaction, which do you select?”

  1. I choose happiness. Those little fleeting moments of joy are what life is made up of. They make life worth living. As for satisfaction, I guess I’ve always been B, C student who didn’t really derive satisfaction from accomplishments so I never focused on it. Satisfaction is somewhat elusive and not all that important to me. I’ve set goals and achieved them. But I think I’ve come to a point in my life to accept my imperfections, not to focus on being perfect or performing at a perfect level, and to just savor the opportunity to learn and try new things. I’m working on a project right now that is taking up a significant amount of time. But I am learning new things, and also learning to accept that I am a novice and not to expect it to be perfect. I have a mantra- it doesn’t have to be perfect when it is made with love. And that is part of my happiness- making things with love, living in love, giving love, and focusing on love. There are so many different kinds of love than what my 20 year old self knew. My 56 year old self is no longer limited.
    Love and miss you!

    • Linda aka Penny!!!
      I love and miss you too!!! I love your reflections on happiness versus satisfaction. I greatly appreciate that you make love a super high priority in all you do and spend time doing!!! I sure agree with you!

  2. Thank you for writing this, Mari. This subject has been on my mind for some time now. The timing of you writing this article is somewhat serendipitous for me! I have been thinking about happiness vs contentment, which is essentially the same as satisfaction. Finding moments of happiness in each day is the easier of the two when you tune in your awareness. Satisfaction is harder because, as you point out, it requires you to examine how you are living your life and determine what you need in your life to feel satisfied. The challenge then becomes how do you achieve those goals especially if what you want is not achievable. Or not achievable in the way you want them to exist in your life due to life circumstances . So then what? Certainly expectations play a huge role in determining whether or not you’re setting goals realistically. I find myself hanging on to the goals for achieving satisfaction that I had previously when I lived in Minneapolis. Life is very different here in the north woods so I need to rethink what I need to be satisfied. This is what has been on my mind

    • I’m glad you found this little reflection valuable Helen!! I am glad you are re-assessing your goals for living in the WI north woods. And yes, happiness is indeed fleeting and requires we tune in. Sending so much love your way my friend!!

  3. I pick happiness as I attempt to be in “present” moment each day happiness Is critical to keep moving forward. However, I am excited to get older so I can see how my life unfolds and see if I can give myself a “satisfactory” pat on the back. I think I would. Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts. Have an awesome time with your Friends in July.

    • I love it that you pick happiness Deepa!!! I suspect your regular meditation practice helps in you being as present as possible every day. It is a cool aspect of aging that we can look back at our lives and notice all the satisfaction in our accomplishments!! I do indeed plan to keep enjoying life in June and July!! Summer in MN is fun, even in a pandemic!! Love you my friend! Thanks for your comment!!

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