If you are a human being, I suspect you want to be happy. Since the days of Aristotle, happiness was believed to encompass pleasure and a life well lived. This is what our eternal pursuit of happiness is all about.
According to the University of California, happiness is the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile. Who doesn’t want to live this manner of life? However, there is a truth behind the pursuit of happiness that you might not realize.
Is pursuit of happiness an illusion?
People constantly overstate the importance of things they do not have.
Some of us have set ourselves up for failure. We think that happiness is something that we work towards and one day ‘arrive at.’ On the contrary, happiness is not a final destination.
Research shows that sometimes, the more we seek happiness, the less we obtain it. Is it possible that a new house will not make you happy for as long as you imagine? Could you be wrong to believe that you would be happier if you got married? Scientists believe that when it comes to predicting exactly how we will feel in the future, often, we are wrong.
Happy people focus on what they have when unhappy people focus on what is missing.
Attaching your happiness on the attainment of a single goal is missing the mark. The fact is, happiness does not come from achieving a single goal, and it is not a function of an event. Instead, happiness is an accumulation of moments. Anchoring your happiness on a future singular goal prevents you from experiencing the joy that is present elsewhere in your life.
Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.
‘I’ll be happy when loops’ you might find yourself stuck in
Many of us have fallen into the trap of creating conditional happiness. It is perfectly ok to set goals and have high standards. It is also fine to want to be, have and do more. However, why not be happy now as you pursue your goal?
The problem with putting off your happiness is that in life there are circumstances that are beyond your control. Secondly, even if you obtain the goal, there is no guarantee that it will make you feel exactly how you have predicted. Lastly, consider this: after you have achieved the goal, it is not the end. You will move on to the next goal. Friend, this pursuit of happiness is a vicious cycle!
I will be happy when I am rich
According to the Harvard Business Review, wealth and happiness are not positively correlated. There is nothing wrong with being rich. However, research shows that wealthier people are not necessarily happy people.
People’s degree of happiness only improves as their income expands up to a point. After that, they experience reduced benefits to happiness even as their income continues to rise.
- Money is never enough.
- Wealthier people are more isolated, which ultimately impacts their happiness. As people climb higher and higher the income ladder, they value independence more and social connections less.
After all, the Chinese are getting wealthier but not happier.
Fun Fact: Money has the most significant positive effect on happiness among the poor.
I will be happy when I get married
Marriage was not designed to make anyone happy, satisfied, or complete. If you go into it for any of these reasons, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Allow me to add that your happiness is your own responsibility.
Marriage brings together two distinct people who come from entirely different backgrounds. Clashes will naturally arise when expectations differ. No one in this world can completely satisfy your desires. You will not be fulfilled in your marriage a 100% of the time. Marriage does not equal satisfaction. Marriage only amplifies the situation it finds you in, so if you were unhappy before, it is unlikely that it will suddenly make you happy in one day.
What is essential in marriage is friendship. Couples who are best friends and married are just as happy as couples who are best friends and living together.
- Marriage brings possibilities, responsibilities, family and rights and privileges. All these can be sources of happiness or misery; a brighter future or a grim present.
I will be happy when I am famous
In this age of social media, it is easy to define your self-worth and anchor your happiness on the number of followers, likes, comments, shares, and retweets. However, nothing is more stressful to a human being than when their goals are tied to the approval of others. Indeed, wealth, beauty, power and fame can contribute to unhappiness.
I imagine that some of our celebrities would love nothing better than to have the comfort to step out of their house without getting tackled by fans and paparazzi.
- Famous people find it hard to trust old friends and make new ones.
If you are looking for fame to define you, then you will never be happy, and you’ll always be searching for happiness.
I will be happy when I have children
Many parents define the days their children are born as the happiest days of their lives. Many others believe that children give their lives meaning. After the excitement wore out, many parents discovered that having children did not always translate to happiness. In fact, more often than not, children bring unexpected strains.
- Children can be a huge financial drain.
- Having children makes couples less happy with their sex lives and is associated with sleep deprivation.
I will be happy when I own a home
For decades, owning a home has been the epitome of the American Dream and the key to long-term financial security. Owning a house brings with it a sense of pride and comfort. On the other hand, owning a house can come with its fair share of stress; both financial and psychological.
- You may have to cut back on vacations, eating out and other comforts to save money for a home.
- Home ownership brings with it the reality of maintenance and repairs and being house rich but cash poor.
There are aspects of homeownership that are not so enjoyable. My thought is home ownership might not be financially or emotionally for everyone.
I put it to you today that you already have what you need to be happy. We hardly think of what we have but always of what we lack. The easiest way to be unhappy is to spend any length of time regretting what we do not have. This is because it is always available and the material is abundant.
In our neverending pursuit of happiness, we tend to postpone our happiness waiting for a future event. But then what happens? When we achieve one goal, we immediately start pursuing the next.
In the end, we will find that an entire lifetime has passed in the pursuit of happiness, which is an illusion. You can be happy wherever you are, just the way you are. What we seek out there is but the icing on the cake.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher runs the blog RedesigningTheMind.com which is about your clarifying and improving the relationship with your brain. He has an advanced diploma in social science and a graduate diploma in technology education. When he’s not learning, he’s teaching at a local high school, enjoying time with his young family or if he’s really lucky, he’s in the garden.