I recently read an article about happiness that stated that we are least likely to find it when we are actively seeking it. The reason, the research stated, is that happiness is actually a byproduct of something else, such as giving your energy to a task you enjoy, serving other people, or working hard (there’s that grit thing again). So by actively trying to attain happiness we actually may never find it because whatever happiness we find will not be enough to satiate our needs. It will be short-term and sporadic. This made a lot of sense to me for several reasons:
1) Being happy all of the time would be numbing. If I always felt happy I may become desensitized to it or unable to truly appreciate that happiness. Philosophically, if I never know anything but happiness, how do I know if I’m truly happy? What do I have to compare it to? Several years ago, I read a quote that said, “The bad stuff makes the good stuff even better.” By having experiences on both extremes of the happiness scale, I feel more appreciative of the good times.
2) Seeking happiness seems to be a never-ending journey. When I focus on the pursuit of happiness, it seems to always lie just out of reach. Plus, I become narcissistic, focusing excessively on how happy I feel. Me me me. The world begins to revolve around my need for happiness to the detriment of others around me. Moreover, I invest less of myself in truly meaningful work because my efforts are so narrowly focused.
3) As I reflect on my life, the things that have brought the most lasting happiness have been difficult, and they generally contain an element of service to other people. Achieving particularly difficult tasks leads to satisfaction and it seems that the more difficult the task is the higher the resulting satisfaction. This morning, in a brief moment of clarity, I created a graph that demonstrates this principle. I replicated it below:
I know what you’re thinking: “Dustin, this is pure genius.” Ok, maybe not. But the principle seems to hold value regardless. In fact, that’s the beauty of the search for happiness — the path is very simple. Find ways to add value to the world using your innate talents and abilities and trust that the happiness will come. It may come immediately or as a result of reflecting in hindsight, but the happiness will be there. Simple as that.
And, for those of you who kept count, I mentioned the word “happiness” more than 20 times. That alone should make you more happy!
Do you know an unhappy person? Are you friends with a real “Debbie Downer?” Pass this article along and give them some hope.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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