The true meaning of happiness

By Adrian Solorio

What is happiness? How do we attain it and more importantly how do we maintain it?  In his 2011 documentary, Happy, director Roko Belic travels the world and interviews a diverse group of people about what makes them happy.

In watching Happy, I was reminded of one of the challenges we face at Hillsides when working with the youth under our care.  Happy explained this challenge in a way that deeply resonated with me. There are two value systems people tend to live their lives by in order to gain happiness, one based on extrinsic goals and the other on intrinsic ones.

Extrinsic goals include

  1. Pursuit of money
  2. Pursuit of image (self, clothes, body)
  3. Pursuit of status or popularity

Intrinsic goals include

  1. Pursuit of personal growth or being who you really are
  2. Pursuit of relationships with family and friends
  3. Pursuit of community feeling or making the world a better place

As these value systems were explained in the film, I was reminded of the pursuits taken by some of our children in order to be happy. The film explains that the pursuit of money, image, and status/ popularity is directly related to short-term happiness. This is something that we deal with when working with our population in various forms, from being liked by others to having the newest sneakers and baseball cap. Happy does a great job in explaining these pursuits as happiness band-aids that have little long-lasting effects on a person’s long-term happiness.

Introducing intrinsic values is a challenge we face daily. We try to help the children grow as people through many programs that cultivate curiosity about themselves and the world. These programs include our arts department, recreation department, and special musical events.

Furthermore, our children are encouraged to build/rebuild relationships with families, friends, staff, and volunteers. This is where our impact is felt the most, in building and teaching the children about positive relationships.

Happy, available through Netflix, is a film worth checking out and discussing with your friends and family.  It gives great insight into an aspect of our lives that is important to all of us, happiness.


Adrian Solorio is a Project Development Specialist at Hillsides who is dedicated to enhancing the services provided to the children.  Previously he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine.

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