Professional Development

Here’s why chasing happiness won’t make you happy

Written by Peter Jones

This country was founded partially on the “pursuit of happiness,” a goal that many people still strive toward on a daily basis. In fact, it seems that people seek constant joy even when they aren’t sure what happiness looks like for their individual lives.

Are you so keen on chasing a foggy idea of “happiness” that you forget to live your life? Do you spend your days trying to avoid all pain, all sadness, and all roadblocks? Happiness is not some kind of prey that can be trapped and held onto for a lifetime. Figure out how to have a healthier relationship with the idea of what it means to have a fulfilling life—which isn’t necessarily a 100% happy one.

You’ll never know joy if you never know sadness.

Understand that positive emotions aren’t the only ones that make us human. We need the negative ones for balance. Constant happiness would prevent you from accessing the many other emotions that live below your bubbly, Insta-worthy surface. Remember that these other—sometimes undesirable—emotions are often lead to the most productivity. Overcoming challenges can only add to your quality of life, so don’t ignore them! Swim into the current, learn life lessons, and come out a better person.

There’s no finish line.

The minute you start chasing happiness (or the idea of happiness you have in your head) is the moment you doom yourself never to reach it. Think of happiness more as an activity than a pursuit. You can’t win it and move on, like a prize at the end of a long race. Rather, you cultivate it gently and slowly over the course of your whole life. You learn to discover the people, achievements, and hobbies that bring you joy in the thick of other, more negative feelings and realities of life.

Happiness does not equal achievement.

You may think if you just keep doing, doing, doing and earning, earning, earning and winning, winning, winning, that happiness will be automatic. But it isn’t necessarily equated to success. You will feel great pride with your biggest achievements, but this isn’t the only path to happiness. And excessive pride can lead to selfishness and greed. Stop focusing so hard on your personal advancement and focus on what kind of person you are within every interaction instead.

You can’t ever be 100% happy.

There will always be something going on in your life that’s unpleasant. Nobody’s life is perfect. Just focus on the positive, feel the emotions you need to process the negative, and remember that happiness isn’t a zero sum game. It’s possible to be mostly happy most of the time. Just don’t try to be perfectly happy all of the time.

If you leave a window open for happiness, you’ll find that it finds you fairly easily. Stop to enjoy the little things. Practice more mindfulness. Take joy in the small, the pleasant, the minutiae of your life. Let your cup fill up slowly, by tiny increments, rather than waiting for one big flood to do it for you.

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About the author

Peter Jones

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