“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

Let’s face it.  Every time you turn around, you find new advice on being happy.  Books promising to reveal the true secret of happiness.  Blog posts telling you, “Write down three things that make you happy today.”  Friends saying, “Move on!” and, “Cheer up!” after you’ve had a bad day and maybe you’re wondering… what’s wrong with that? Happiness is a good thing right?  Well, yes.  Of course it is. But we are being taught that our lives should be a straight and narrow path toward happiness. We are taught that we should strive for happiness, and happiness alone in everything we do and that if we’re not always feeling happy, then something is terribly wrong. The truth is, happiness should not be our only focus, and continuously striving for it, to the detriment of everything else, can actually cause us to make lots of mistakes. 

1.  We view setbacks and growing pains as failures.

When we actively pursue happiness, anything that makes us feel unhappy can seem like a failure such as a simple setback or challenging moment when in reality these things are unavoidable, normal parts of personal growth.  Sometimes it’s just easier to feel depressed and trapped by these experiences and let them get the best of us. Think about a time in your life when you faced a challenge.  Maybe you lost your job, were betrayed by a friend, or got rejected by a loved one.  How did you respond to this?  Did you feel like a victim, or did you embrace it as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn something valuable? If you’re like most people (including myself), you probably struggled to have a positive attitude at the time, and the situation was probably incredibly hard to deal with and the truth is, challenges are never easy.

2.  We get addicted to short-term, quick fixes of pleasure.

In our impatience to find happiness, we often seek pleasure instead because it’s easier to achieve in the short-term. This can cause us to rely on pleasurable experiences in an unhealthy way.  For example, we might actually find ourselves feeling anxious if we don’t have anything to look forward to, such as an exciting vacation in the near future. But relying on pleasurable experiences as a means to happiness will only leave us always wanting more much like a drug where we become an addict to our next fix. Because pleasure is short lived and offers no sense of deep fulfillment.

3.  We neglect the amazing people around us.

Deliberately striving for happiness can also lead us to be self-centered “I want happiness and I want it now!” instead of achieving happiness over time through meaningful experiences and service to a greater cause. In this case, where the focus is only on today’s must-have dose of happiness, we become more of a taker rather than a giver.  We focus all of our attention on ourselves me, me, me so our immediate desires are more easily met, instead of considering new ways to make a rewarding, lasting difference in our lives and the lives around us.  We prioritize our pursuit over all the people family, friends and strangers who need us.

4.  We let our expectations sap the joy out of genuine experiences.

Think about a time when you were looking forward to something.  Maybe it was as simple as a nice walk on the beach with your partner, or perhaps a vacation you had been planning. When the time finally came, did you find yourself getting completely lost in the experience and having a great time, or were you scatter-brained with expectations of how the experience was “supposed to be,” and thus subconsciously feeling somewhat disappointed? Too often we become so determined to feel happy in a certain way, that we end up focusing too much on whether an experience is meeting our expectations.

5.  We give up amazing opportunities that require temporary discomfort.

Think about a time in your life when you went through a tough but rewarding experience. Perhaps you took on a challenging project. Do you remember feeling a great sense of anxiety telling you that you would fail, but you didn’t? and as a result, not only did you achieve something amazing, you also opened up an array of new opportunities for yourself, became a little bit wiser, and gained a greater sense of self- confidence.

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