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Published September 27, 2012, 11:30 PM

Healthy Body, Hot Life: Understand happiness, satisfaction

This week I was chatting with a friend at the gym when I told her that I was going back to school. She asked, “Chris, why can’t you be happy where you are?” Her question to me is a question that a lot of us women sometimes ask ourselves.

By: Chris Linnares, INFORUM

This week I was chatting with a friend at the gym when I told her that I was going back to school.

She asked, “Chris, why can’t you be happy where you are?”

Her question to me is a question that a lot of us women sometimes ask ourselves.

“I have a pretty good life, why don’t I always feel completely happy?”

Many times this question can lead us to other thoughts like: “Maybe something is missing in my relationship,” or “Maybe something is missing in my career.”

A lot of us believe we are unhappy because we have unmet needs and that unless those needs are satisfied, we will never be happy. It was such a comfort and relief to me when I learned that happiness and satisfaction are not synonymous – I can be happy without being 100 percent satisfied.

The fact that sometimes I desperately crave time for myself doesn’t mean I am unhappy with the people around me. When we confuse satisfaction with happiness, that’s when the problem starts.

In my workshops, a lot of women say that they don’t feel comfortable expressing their needs to their spouse because, most of the time, their desire to satisfy a need is confused with their level of happiness. What could be an inspiring conversation ends up in “Why are you so unhappy? Am I not making you happy?”

Behind these questions, there is an idea that if we can perfectly satisfy our every need, then we will be thoroughly happy – no more complaints about our spouses, flabby tummies or crabby bosses because we won’t have those problems any longer, right?

Happily, the answer is no. If you believe satisfying your needs is the only way to achieve your pursuit of happiness, my friend, you will have an extremely long road in front of you. The moment you satisfy one need, a few weeks later you will create another one. It’s inherently in us, the desire to continue to grow.

Abraham Maslow, psychologist and creator of the hierarchy of needs, said “Human beings have in their nature a tendency to grow towards a more perfect realization of who they are.”

In his much-renowned hierarchy of needs, Maslow shows five categories. I personally believe that if this system had been devised by a woman, we’d have a good 199 levels of needs, including “me-time” and “chocolate for PMS,” among many others.

According to his theory, you can’t arrive at the next level of needs fulfillment until the previous level is sufficiently covered. We start with our physiological needs for food, water and shelter; with those needs provided, we can attend to other needs until we achieve what he called self-actualization, which includes realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment and the continuance to seek personal growth.

So feeling unsatisfied and searching for satisfaction is part of our nature. It’s part of our survival mechanism as a living organism to avoid pain and look for pleasure. Actually, what differentiates us from a non-living organism is our ability to move. Life is movement, and we move toward fulfilling our needs.

In fact, the difference between us and a rock at its most fundamental level is that we move. By asking ourselves to stop our desire to satisfy our needs would mean that we would stop moving, we would be static – stagnant and unchanging. We would have a vibrancy and vitality on par with a non-living, non-moving, non-needing (but perfectly satisfied) rock. Um, no thanks.

My hope for everyone is not that we become 100 percent satisfied, because by nature that’s just not possible. My hope is that we are able to move up in the hierarchy of needs so we achieve a point at which what we most want to receive is the opportunity to give. Imagine how our world would be if instead of trying to satisfy the need to receive love; instead, we will develop a burning desire to give our love.

So if one day you have the opportunity to share your aspirations with someone, and they confuse your desire to grow with unhappiness, just remember that you are not a rock. You were born with a deep desire to grow and achieve your full potential, and there is nothing more inspiring than to be a happily unsatisfied woman!

Chris Linnares is an international author, Brazilian psychotherapist and creator of Diva Dance. She is the founder of Naturally Diva and Diva Connection Foundation for women’s health and empowerment.