This article discusses why the pursuit of happiness is not working and offers a new perspective. With a new understanding of what happiness is, and what happiness isn’t, we can start to live happier and more fulfilling lives.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Happiness. It’s a word we hear about all the time. It’s something that we work for, that we work to achieve. Yet day by day we seem no closer to attaining it. Happiness eludes us.
Yes, we’ve had moments when we felt happy. Perhaps it was a wedding. Or a birth of a child. Or it was that other night, when we were hanging out with friends, or spending time with family. In those moments, we felt happy, truly, deeply happy. Transcendent almost.
And then it fades. Darkness ensues. The happiness is gone. In its place will often be a vacuum.
We ask, “What’s the point?” If we have the inalienable right to pursue happiness, then what is the point if we don’t feel like we can ever reach it, or achieve it? That which we want more than anything, to be happy, seems to be something that we can’t have.
Maybe if we had more money! That’s really all we need! Or maybe it’s that brand-spankin’ new 3D-LED HD TV. A new car? Yes, that’s it!
No, no it’s not money or things we want, but we want a relationship. A man or woman who will complete us – that will make us happy! If we’re in a relationship – if only we weren’t in the relationship!
But then we get those things and after a brief honeymoon, we’re back where we started.
Empty. Sad. So we try to think of other things. And the cycle continues.
It seems we can’t be happy. So what do we do?
We employ distraction. We watch TV (obsessively) to distract ourselves from our lives so we don’t have to think about how miserable we are or how miserable the world is. We drink. We smoke. We eat. We check our phones every thirty seconds.
We take subconscious shortcuts to happiness. Yet we never seem to be any happier, if anything, the shortcuts seem to be part of the problem. Then we become addicted to the distractions and we are even more unhappy. Turn on the 11:00 news – you know what I mean. The world sucks, so how can we be happy anyway?
A NEW DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS
After spending the last paragraphs utterly depressed it’s time to step away from the ledge. Because we can be happy. But in order to be happy we have to unlearn everything we’ve ever thought about or even lived about happiness.
First – what happiness ISN’T.
Happiness is not an endpoint.
If our goal is to achieve happiness then we will never be happy.
Yes, read that again.
Happiness is not the goal. The pursuit of happiness is an illusion. If we pursue happiness we will never reach it.
Until now we’ve thought about happiness as the destination. It’s not.
“Wait, what are you talking about?”
We have been told by everyone – parents, teachers, politicians, tv personalities, that the goal of our lives is to achieve happiness. It’s in the Declaration of Independence! Can Thomas Jefferson be wrong?
Yes, it’s everywhere. We are told time and time again that we must pursue happiness. We are told the goal of our lives is to be happy.
Yet how many of us are happy? Not many. Because we cannot pursue happiness. Let me rephrase, that we can pursue happiness if we wish, but we’ll never get there. Our efforts will be futile. We know this because we have lived this. We are living this.
It’s time for us to develop a new concept of happiness. It’s time for us to redefine happiness because our current definition is just not working. No – it’s worse than that. Our current definition, of happiness as our goal/destination is simply wrong.
So what is happiness?
Happiness is a result.
Happiness is what results when we are on the path we instinctually know that we should be on. Happiness is what results when we are growing when we are expanding and when we are developing.
Happiness is not something we can do, or achieve. It’s a result. It’s a byproduct. When we are growing, when we are expanding, the result will be happiness.
We will never achieve happiness if our goal is happiness.
Our goal must be one of expansion, growth, and development. While we are working toward that goal, we will be happy.
Happiness is not about smiling. It isn’t about the expression of joy on the face. We might be toiling harder than we have ever toiled before. The expressions on our faces might be one of pain or contempt. But inside we will be singing because we are working on ourselves and developing and growing. The result is happiness.
Therefore, the key, the key for you to be thinking about right now is – are you on the right path? Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you developing? Because when you can honestly answer “Yes” to those questions, then you will be on your journey, and the result will be happiness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Coach Alec is a coach and motivational speaker for men and women in their 30s and 40s who feel stuck in their current jobs or who feel they lack direction. Coach Alec has helped his clients figure out their next career steps and develop the courage to start walking.