Happiness comes from the root word for lucky and satisfaction from the root word for being content. Being satisfied in a deep and knowing way is not about luck, it is usually not random, it is planned, thought through, intentional. It comes from effort and often at some cost personally, professionally, physically. While happiness is more likely to be accidental, occasional and difficult to sustain. I have been in several conversations of late about these two feelings. There is an old Japanese saying I used to have on a mini-poster as a teen in my bedroom “Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it eludes you, but if you sit quietly, it will come and rest on your shoulder.” Chasing happiness seems to be a past time for many. Coming to a deeper awareness about what is satisfying requires a different kind of effort. It is not haphazard. Fascinatingly it seems the earliest meaning around satisfaction was with a confessor hearing the contrition of observing the fulfilment of the sinner’s penance. The contrast being satisfying the other rather than yourself and I think this is quite close to the difference between the two states of satisfaction and happiness. Satisfaction seems to have deeper roots.
Getting to the bottom of things can be quite satisfying and sustaining a state of satisfaction begins with the seeds of knowing your purpose and passions and often distilling the difference between needs and wants. Some people talk about needs as work and wants as pleasures – this too might be a clue to the difference between happiness and satisfaction. Meeting wants is probably the icing on the cake, while meeting needs holds the seeds for satisfaction. Having a big enough worldview to capture your why above and beyond the quick rush of happy I think can put down satisfaction roots. This is how value is created in our life, the deeper the roots, the more sustenance from our source where-ever that well is we draw from. There is some kind of focus from those roots to follow the water course that offers life. I often think of the expression “go with the flow” as really being carried along that river, when you are in it and authentically turning up, you experience being held over the rocks, and around the bends, through the cascades. Maybe after the journey you arrive to the mouth, where you are emptied into the ocean, maybe you are opened into the ocean and join with something bigger than yourself?
Rumi says: If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain”. I am not so sure about the lack of pain, but I am sure satisfying needs takes patience, flow or perhaps alignment. Wants though have more of an insatiable nature and require being fed. Only when there is some kind of emptiness, lacking even perhaps a vacuum can the need become fully visible. The homeless one knows what shelter means, the hungry know the taste of bread. I think Mick Jagger and Keith Richards might have been onto something where they moaned about lack of satisfaction because people are filling up with useless information and constant trying. Filling and chasing and constant trying, isn’t going to lead to satisfaction. It is both more gentle and more tenacious, there is plumbing to depths requiring integrity and gratitude for the stones and rocks along the way to reveal what might is needed to go deeper.
Little sparks of water dance in the light and fly in the face of the danger in the cascades, flamed by high winds in the mountains and gentle breezes on the coast. There are times you can even see the light and water form a rainbow – that universal expression of hope. It is not always a happy journey, but there are signs of it being a satisfying one.