The Pursuit of Happiness


…Maybe that’s the problem.

Pursuing happiness is like chasing a rainbow. The faster we go, the harder we try, the farther off it becomes.

I have learned that happiness is not a pursuit— it’s a choice. Happiness is a state of mind, obtainable at any time, in any moment of your choosing.

Licking a cone of creamy vanilla Häagen-Dazs makes me happy. But if someone knocks the cone out of my hand, I’m no longer happy. Happiness can be fleeting and unstable, like that ice cream cone. It’s really just a temporary sensation of pleasure, like entertainment, shopping, eating or sex.

Our beliefs about what will make us happy are heavily influenced by other people, Hollywood or commercial media. We race along this “hedonic treadmill” perpetually feeling like something is missing, like happiness is one toy, one trinket or one promotion away, but

always just

beyond our reach.

And still no rainbow.

Disappointing career choices, heartbreaking relationships and midlife crises indicate that our assumptions about happiness and the pursuit of it often miss the mark.

It’s not the pursuit of happiness we should concern ourselves with, but rather the pursuit of fulfillment, purpose and significance.

If I have created a life of meaning in which I have a deep sense of purpose and value, that won’t change because someone knocks my ice cream cone over. Fulfillment is a state of existence, not a fleeting emotion.

What then creates a fulfilling life?

That’s the all-important question you have to answer for yourself. In fact, it’s the subject of the classic tome Man’s Search for Meaning (which I recommend!) by psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl. Typically a life of meaning requires deep relationships, a connection to a community, a sense of well-being, contribution to others and continual challenge, growth, learning and progress. Now those are some virtues worth pursuing. And once you start out on this pursuit, you will realize that crossing the finish line is not what’s most rewarding; the journey itself and the anticipation of achieving your goal is what’s so exhilarating and wonderful.

So what about being happy?

There are two ways you can choose to be happy at any moment.
One: Think about all you have to be grateful for. Some of the happiest people I have ever met are those who have comparatively few accoutrements to be happy about. When you feel gratitude, you cannot feel fear or worry at the same time. Gratitude washes it all away. If you are reading this, you’re breathing and above ground, so you have many blessings to be grateful for—just remind yourself at any moment you want to feel happy.

The second way to choose happiness—the best way, in my opinion—is to do something to make someone else happy. The person who bestows happiness always gets much more of it in return.

The June issue of SUCCESS is dedicated to the topic of happiness—what is it, how do you find it and how do you sustain it? An important enough of a discussion that we expanded the issue by an extra 20 pages (but same price!). And the CD in the issue is crammed with great content. We put my mentor Jim Rohn on it to address this important topic, as well as Deepak Chopra. There is also an excellent interview with the marketing guru Dan Kennedy on it. Don't miss it.

I hope this issue of SUCCESS and this blog post not only brings you much happiness but also helps you in your pursuit of finding greater meaning, purpose and fulfillment in life.

How do YOU define happiness? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 'Share' and 'Like' this post as well.




16 responses to “The Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. “meaningful relationships”

    This makes me sad. :-( I don’t have any friends except random people on comment boards (like this one) through the computer. I’m too shy and afraid that people won’t like me. I made a video for YouTube to oppose bullying that I think is really nice and sincere, because I was so affected by it and think I could bring a unique perspective to the crisis. But the video is just sitting on my hard drive right now because I don’t think anyone will see it, and I don’t have anyone who I can promote to, and self-promo is thought to = spam; even something innocuous like “I really liked your video, will you check out mine” — nobody cares. :-(

    I don’t have social media besides a throwaway email address, because I’ve seen how people post stupid things on Facebook like what they’re eating for breakfast and even some mean things that have made people commit suicide. I want to show people how to use social networking (online & off) in positive ways, but I don’t think I’ll get too far because I myself don’t know how to even get started. In other words, I know what not to do but don’t know how to say it or to whom.

    I am a teenage girl who just wants to make a big splash online, not like Justin Bieber who I cannot stand, but like a 16-year-old Rhonda Byrne or Loretta LaRoche who makes people happy with positive philosophy. I think I have plenty to offer, but I don’t know how to get people to care. What can I do?

  2. Darren,

    I was going to mention a quote from Man’s Search for Meaning. And then as I read, I saw that sure enough you mentioned the book. But you didn’t mention the quote, which I think says it all:

    “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

  3. @Clive Leach, I and Jim Rohn agree Clive: “Earn as much money as you possibly can and as quickly as you can. The sooner you get money out of the way, the sooner you will be able to get to the rest of your problems in style.” — Jim Rohn

  4. Happiness is a state of mind. However, I tried being broke once and found that it didn’t help so I decided to get wealthy. You can do more stuff when you’re wealthy. I’m sure some folk can still be happy and poor but I just found it to be easier when you and your family are financially secure. I don’t mean to be smug but for me that’s just the way it is.

  5. Great article Darren and timely for me. I have been dealing with emotional turmoil since my fiancee suddenly broke off our engagement last summer. It wouldn’t have hurt so much if I didn’t l didn’t truly lover her. I am better than I was last year but she still means a great deal to me.

    One thing I have been looking at recently is the fact that I have goals I want to focus on to generate money from home and in order to do this I have to chose to be happy. To lose her and to also continue living my life without doing work that most pleases me is too paifnful to bear. As much as I do miss her I have to move forward in spite of things. I can’t afford to do otherwise.

    Recently I picked up Jim Rohn’s book “The Seasons of Life” to read again, and found a helpful way of thinking about the past. Early in the book in the section entitled The Effect of Environment on Circumstance he says “For those who seriously accept that they deserve and will one day acheive financial independence, let each break off the rear view mirror fo their lives an concentrate upon what lies ahead.”

  6. You know DH happiness is the EASIEST success goal to achieve!! Period!! Here’s why: You carry with you everything you need to be happy every single day~Your brain, your perspective, and your willingness to work to improve the lives of others. Want to brighten your day? Send a note or a gift to a friend. The more creative the note or the gift the better everything gets FOR YOU. Why? In a world that constantly challenges your empowerment you are ALWAYS empowered to help someone else even if the “help” comes in the form of saying “Hey, I appreciate you!” How cool is that?

    BTW: Thanks again for being you~I appreciate you for your presence and your kindness! Some say kindness is overrated. I say to that: “Buffalo Chips!!” Have a magical day my friend!!

  7. Our greatest discovery will be living out our significance. Pursuing significance through our acts and contributions is like a dog who chases its tail. Significance is inherent. We are created in the image of God. We can never lose what is intrinsic. We give our contributions because we are significant, not in exchange for significance….happiness will follow

  8. Hi Darren,

    Great post, it seems that the more we put happiness on the other side of something, when I get a promotion, when I get that new car, when I have a family we just keep postponing it. In order to be happy we have to be happy NOW, not when something happens to us. Saying a morning gratitude prayer or sending a mental love note in the morning that works for me also being present in the moment means that you enjoy the now and don’t worry about what is to come.

  9. How do YOU define happiness?

    My answer:

    Knowing that I gave the best of myself in all that I do today and will somehow become a little better in all that I do tomorrow.

    Knowing that I move a little closer to my goals each day of world class health, family, career, and helping others.

  10. I believe in the “pursuit” of happiness, where “pursuit” is synonymous with “an activity” rather than “a chase.” I am not chasing happiness; I am choosing it as an activity, as in a leisure pursuit. But I find happiness in my work, not just in leisure! I am happiest writing, speaking, blogging, interacting with friends and colleagues, even trying a new recipe for my family’s dinner or recording podcasts I know my husband and his boss will find useful. Happiness is a byproduct of pursuing excellence in activities that bring you joy.

  11. For me, happiness is the smile on my son’s face, his running embrace when I come home from work, his little hugs and kisses and the look in his eyes when he says’ Daddy’….

    There is no price tag for that!