Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of philosophizing of happiness, as evidenced by the hundreds of books, blog posts, and articles written on how to find, maintain, and exude happiness.

Happiness is all fine and good, but apparently not what we should be spending our time chasing. I read a fascinating article this morning on how pursuing happiness, actually leads to unhappiness, and how instead it is a meaningful and interesting life we should be in pursuit of. I was so captivated, that I kept reading quotes from it out-loud, distracting my co-workers, because I needed to talk about it with someone right away, which ended up leading a great inter-office discussion.

Like this one, "To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy'. But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.'"

How many times have you found yourself being told to 'be happy'? Probably lots. But that shouldn't be the goal. We should be encouraging each other to go find a meaningful reason to live.

Statistically speaking, our American culture is miserable. We're one of the most depressed, anxious, medicated, and unhealthy countries on the planet. We're afraid of everything, and measure our success in material consumption, which is occurring at a rate that will literally be the end of the world.

The problem is that happiness in and of itself is easy. And boring.

Meaning is hard. And stressful. And requires you to give more than you take. The result of a life lived with meaning however, is a sense of calm and moments of euphoria that make happiness pale in comparison.

Maybe this is more of a semantics game than anything else. I don't think that happiness is a four-letter word, or that it shouldn't factor into how you design your life, but there is obviously danger in making it the end goal, and not a by-product of the genuine search for a meaning you can dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to.

Being happy isn't good enough. Your life deserves something bigger.

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