Stop the pursuit of happiness, and you may just find it.
I have renamed my blog and here’s why.
The famous Will Smith Hollywood movie took it’s title from a line in the Declaration of Independence: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” - life, liberty and happiness being three unalienable rights given to every human being by their creator.
So much is written, taught, presented, podcasted etc. about the pursuit of happiness, but what is happiness? And should it be something to pursue as a goal, state or trait?
Most say happiness is one of the 6 basic types of emotion - along with sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. Having done a quick search about emotions there is plenty of research suggesting there are anything up to 271 emotions that we humans experience, though when asked, the three most commonly listed emotions are happy, sad and angry.
There are a multitude of definitions of happiness and you can pick your own. I’ll offer one of my favourites: “Happiness is an emotional state characterised by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment and fulfilment”. (Taken from verywellmind.com)
When most people talk about happiness I usually substitute contentment in my own mind as I find this better reflects the grounded place I want to be. Happiness is too evocative of smiley, jolly people that is a bit superficial - I want more depth!
Emotion or feeling?
“Emotions can manifest either consciously or subconsciously while feelings are experienced consciously.” (https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/)
“Emotions are associated with bodily reactions that are activated through neurotransmitters and hormones released by the brain, feelings are the conscious experience of the emotional reaction.” (https://imotions.com/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/)
We often use the words emotions and feelings interchangeably and that’s fine with me, but either way, is an emotion or a feeling something I want to make a primary pursuit of my life? I am very clear that I do not! Whether they are reactions, or experiences of subconscious reactions, I see them as a byproduct, an outcome or consequence of an event or circumstance and, therefore, I think I’ll do better focusing on good and positive events and circumstances.
Focusing on the emotion or feeling as the primary goal can so easily lead to very unhealthy short cuts. Think about emotions and feeling related to common everyday things - eating, drinking, socialising, sex, work, exercise and so on. Opting for the fastest and most efficient route to the “climax” of those good feelings can lead to all sorts of toxic and unhealthy habits. We live in a world of immediate gratification and have lost the enjoyment of the process, the fuller experience, the journey. We simply want to arrive, be fit, be full, be drunk, be high, be happy NOW! This has no meaningful purpose. It’s hedonism. It’s self serving. It’s destructive and will leave a trail of devastation in your life and the lives of people you are connected to.
You probably get the idea that I think this is not the way to go? Correct. I firmly believe that we should be focusing on leading a life of meaning, service, generosity, integrity, honesty, courage, curiously, compassion, connection and many other wholesome values. The pursuit of these values will lead to happiness that is more grounded and satisfying. Furthermore, this will not leave a trail of destruction behind but a positive legacy of contribution to your world.
To this end I have shifted the focus of my blog to focus more specifically on this. What are the worthwhile things we should be pursuing and how can we engage with these things wholeheartedly?
If you have any requests for blogs on certain topics please reach out to me. Thanks!