“Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination” —Immanuel Kant
The pursuit of enlightenment has been one of the most, if not the most, hotly discussed and scrutinized philosophies of humanity. Does enlightenment manifest from divine right? Or is it just an artificially created social virtue? Or maybe, more interestingly, does it critically depend on the bihemispheric relationship of our brains?
To understand what micro and macro happiness mean we first need to briefly touch on the root of happiness. Some of the greatest philosophers during the Renaissance and Romanticism eras saw morality and love (of both others and self) as an instinctual and natural sensibility for preservation—a product of universal law. David Hume reasoned that sympathy is a “move from desire of personal happiness to desire of general happiness—a natural proclivity to prefer, all things being equal, that those around us are happy and at ease rather than distressed.”(1) In essence, the worthiness of being happy is what I like to call macro happiness—a heuristic systemization of outlook, empathy, self-awareness, and altruism within all contexts of life.
Famed psychiatrist and author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making the Western World, Dr. Iain McGilchrist, examined and researched the functions of the left and right hemispheres of our brains in relation to how we dissect and discern what is meaningful in the world at any given time. Our asymmetrical predilections help to define and categorize our human experiences, and hence, lay the framework for the relationship of importance within the details (micro happiness) and the bigger picture (macro happiness).
“One of the more durable generalisations about the hemispheres has been the finding that the left hemisphere tends to deal more with pieces of information in isolation, and the right hemisphere with the entity as a whole—the so called Gestalt…”(2)
Micro happiness is ever-changing—the left brain swimming with the tide, focusing on the finite details of our artificial virtues (i.e., job satisfaction, marriage/dating etiquette, finances, social status). While we need micro happiness to develop and refine our short-term trajectory, fixating on micro happiness will negatively affect one’s macro happiness. There is a growing dichotomy within our modern society between what happiness should be as a social custom versus defining what kind of happiness is right for each individual. Micro happiness has evolved further into a competitive nature, asserting dominance in our biased reasons in order to receive self-satisfaction, which is why I don’t believe in taking advice from people consumed with micro happiness, and I certainly do not give it if it includes myself.
To embody macro happiness entails discovering what an individual receives from the world as a uniquely minded person and what is accepted—it’s personal, wholesome, and shared. However, if what is shared is involuntary then it will be difficult to feel worthy of macro happiness. Just as we study and learn what makes great leaders, the same tools and practices are part of becoming a great macro thinker. Liz Wiseman wrote a book titled, Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, in which she elucidates, “Multipliers extract all of the capability from people…everyone around them gets smarter and more capable.” Effective leaders across all industries and in private, public, and nonprofit sectors extract intelligence, leverage resources, and engage native genius.(3)
Achieving macro happiness also requires becoming a Multiplier (3)—extracting the details surrounding your livelihood, evaluating which details affect your self-awareness, leveraging the resources to move towards your macro goals, engaging others to be a part of your approach, and refining your instinctive sensibilities.
Visualizing what you want and who you want to be doesn’t have to be an endless mystery. In fact, seeking something bigger than what is handed, or made aware of, to you is energy you are utilizing for the right beliefs.
1. O’Grady, Jane. Enlightenment Philosophy: In a Nutshell. Arcturus Publishing Limited. 2018.
2. McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Modern World. Yale University Press Publications. 2010.
3. Wiseman, Liz, McKeown, Greg. Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter. HarperCollins Publishers. 2010.