Is Happiness and Satisfaction the Same Thing ?

Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have

-Oscar Wilde

With his numerous provocative aphorisms attributed to Oscar Wilde, he is perhaps one of the few writers and thinkers to have seriously pondered about the nature of desire, pleasure, temptation, needs, and happiness.

In one of his most famous quotes that can help us to resolve this question, he states that, “Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have”. With this in mind, we will attempt to provide a thorough analysis of what constitutes satisfaction by showing that indeed, satisfaction is an ingredient to being happy.

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

1. The Theoretical Presuppositions Of Our Arguments

Our overall assumption lies in the premise that, happiness is the ultimate goal of all human activity however, it will always remain a mirage if we do not know how to gratify our wants.

This means that, to be happy, you have to gratify some wants, but how do you know when to stop? In other words, how do you know you are satisfied with your life? What are the necessary mindsets that would make you lead a life of satisfaction?

Second assumption is largely inspired and borrowed from the works of Aristotle and based on his observation, our premise will be that, “It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.” — Aristotle.

From this assumption we will show the futility in endlessly pursuing ephemeral insatiable wants and that sometimes to cure this drive, you need to deliberately pursue a life of simplicity.

Thirdly, will be the crux of our analysis where will attempt to show that, much of the interrogations about what it means to be happy, articulates on how we understand, or rather misunderstand, the concept of being satisfied.

To do this, we will delineate as well as define all the mobilizing conditions and factors that converge to finally convince you that, to be satisfied is to be happy.

It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it


2. Why true Satisfaction requires you to unburden yourself from the irrational drive to “own”

When Henry David Thoreau decided to live deliberately in the margins of mainstream society in an isolated cabin of Walden Pond, he recounts his experiences by arguing that, “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind”.

His experience at Walden Pond aimed to prove that, even when life’s necessities are reduced to a minimum, life can still be magnificent. He thus invites his readers to love their lives, because he is convinced that life is worth living.

In his opening remarks in his book “Walden Pond”, he states that, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms”.

I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

While many misunderstand Henry David Thoreau’s assertion as a call to reject private property, but a thorough examination of his works will show that, he is not anti-private property per se, but what he is calling upon people to do is to go back to, “the only the essential facts of life”.

By this he means to appreciate the simplest things in life and nature like; the sound of the wind blowing in the trees, the birds singing, flowers blooming in the spring, the sounds of water flowing in a stream etc.

This call to simplicity he argues is an incredibly rewarding experience since he not only advocates it from a theoretical perspective, but also from practical and pragmatic inspirations.

His often long descriptions of his daily activities while in the woods is meant to provoke the reader to appreciate that for you to be satisfied, you do not need an extraordinary spiritual or physical journeys to do that. Take an example of travelling, which as we have been taught to believe, is supposed to bring us loads of excitement and an escape from life’s daily boredom.

Thoreau showed that, you do not need to go to, far distant places to experience new things or “novelties” as Thoreau calls them. He provokes the reader by convincingly arguing that “a man must generally get away some hundreds or thousands of miles from home before he can be said to begin his travels. Why not begin his travels at home? Would he have to go far or look very closely to discover novelties?

A man must generally get away to begin his travels…
Why not begin his travels at home?


You see, Henry David Thoreau actually practiced what he preached while in his solitary sojourn in the woods. He was thoroughly determined to explore all the simple facets of life by above all, living in the present and enjoying the eternity of the simplest moments. That’s why you will find him using the most poetic language possible, to describe the most banal leisure activities by giving them a very profound and almost spiritual admiration. Indeed, Henry David Thoreau spent his days in Walden Pond observing nature, having simple walks, reading, writing, cultivating friendship with his nearest neighbors, looking after his field of beans and so on.

Therefore, using Henry David Thoreau’s life and works as a launching pad, we are now able to at least give a succinct definition of what being satisfied entails which simply put, satisfaction is a balanced state of mind and body, from which suffering, stress, and worries are absent. It is the feeling of well-being that results from the accomplishment of what is considered desirable through a constant pursuit of equilibrium and moderation which according to the majority of people, that would be considered as being happy.


To conclude this analysis, just like Thoreau, we also invite you to interrogate this question further in the comment section since happiness and satisfaction are experiential aspects of our lives. We do not want this analysis to be solely a prescriptive affair, we want you to share with us your estimation on this topic by further agreeing or outrightly disagreeing with the assertion that indeed, satisfaction is the same as happiness.

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