The Pursuit of Happiness: What Does It Really Involve?

“The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

Benjamin Franklin

A friend of mine yesterday asked the question on Facebook, ‘Do you believe in “happy ever after”?’

My reply to her was, “No. Happiness isn’t the meaning of life.”


My answer may have confused a few people at first, until I went on to explain my reasonings.

You see, my belief is that a constant state of happiness is both an unrealistic expectation, and also an extreme burden for a person, not to mention a perilous way for one to live their life.

Pursuing happiness alone, as the core meaning of life, can lead a person to crave the experience of happiness at any cost, with it consuming more and more of their waking moments.

Just like a narcotic, the effects of which eventually begin to dull over time, leading to an addict requiring larger and more frequent “hits”, a relentless quest for happiness can result in overlooking essential aspects of life.

Ironically, these neglected elements, while not immediately associated with joy, are crucial for personal comfort, well-being, and contributing to the lives of others, and often eventually involve a feeling of happiness once accomplished.

So where is the balance? Where is the place for happiness in our lives? What is the meaning of Life?

“Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.”

Aldous Huxley

Growth, in pursuit of goals; overcoming trials, until you triumph; being of service to others – those, for me, are the meaning of life.

Happiness is most poignantly felt when it is the, often brief, by-product of an activity of growth or service – often accompanied by feelings of satisfaction, joy, triumph, and relief. It is a brief stop-gap in time; a moment to reflect, to gather your breath, to experience the satisfaction of having accomplished a challenging task, before ultimately facing the next period of challenge and growth.

A person who makes happiness their sole pursuit in life will likely feel the sting of defeat more keenly, than the person who expects defeat to be an occasional companion on the road to realising their goals.

Those who focus solely on happiness can have their whole life turned upside-down and dashed to pieces, when the rug of life gets pulled from beneath them, and happiness flees away. They are left empty. Bereft. Lost.

“Set a goal… for what it makes of you to achieve it. Do it for the skills you have to learn, and the person you have to become.”

Jim Rohn

When we understand that life has moments of happiness, but only as a result of forging a life of meaning and growth, through the application of daily disciplines – disciplines which grow stronger over time, and pull you through the moments of struggle and hardship – when we understand this, we aren’t left bereft when happiness flees from our sight for a time.

Rather, we know that happiness is waiting for us again, just on the other side of our current period of challenge and opportunity. Waiting, for the bigger person you will have become in your pursuit, so you may enjoy its brief, attractive, welcome company once again, before the next period of growth begins.

A symphony is created by the major and minor keys, the lulls and crescendos, the melodies and discords.

A beautiful tapestry is created by the weaving of light and dark threads together.

Do you believe in “Happy ever after”?

Happiness is undoubtedly a part of life, and an important one at that, but it isn’t the whole meaning.

Happy *ever* after? No.

To create *moments* of happiness, each day, ever after. Yes, I believe that is a realistic and healthy expectation for us to have in our lives.

As we strive to reach our goals in life, as we learn and grow, as we succeed, happiness will naturally be our regular companion along the road. Enjoy and appreciate its company while it’s present, and realise that it will visit again with regularity, as we build and grow our lives of meaning.






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