Monday, March 16, 2009


What does it mean to be happy? What does it take to be happy? Is it really something, as new Americans were encouraged to do by their founding fathers, worth pursuing?

I believe we have set happiness up to fail. We have put on it such high expectations, they can’t possibly be met. Happiness is hard to define, and harder to conjure, at least for any sustained period of time. Getting stuff makes me happy, but what about when it’s not new anymore? Happiness can be as fleeting as that new car smell, or the first set of batteries.

I have read that ‘happiness is a choice’. Is it? Can I just decide to be happy? What if I can’t, then what? Maybe those phrases are written by therapists as a ploy for new clients!

The issue isn’t whether or not happiness is a good thing – of course it is. But, I have come to realize it shouldn’t have the emphasis in my life that I have given it in the past. For me seeking happiness is like taking crack. The first hit feels really great, but only lasts a little while. Subsequently I need more and more to get back to that same high.

Happiness is not the measurement stick I want to use, nor is it my objective. Its absence can be a symptom of something awry, maybe like a headache telling me I should drink more water. Happiness is a byproduct of being satisfied, being content, being fulfilled.

A life of fulfillment, or a full life, comes with all sorts of stuff – joy, happiness, pain, grief, boredom and disappointment. What I chase after is that – living life to its fullest, sometimes realizing that by doing so means there’s a good chance I won’t be happy.

While I am sure those guys, when writing the Declaration of Independence, had the best of intentions – my experience has been that pursuing happiness itself is like chasing a shadow toward the sun.

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