Happiness is NOT the goal. Here’s Why.

Why are you trying to be happy? No, really, think about it. You’re just going to wind up feeling sad again. This is not going to be a negative post – just a discussion on the fact that we are being sold a false hope: happiness.

One of my fave bloggers has posted on this topic. Penelope Trunk is Jewish and says, “Jews are always asking more questions. Jews celebrate doubt, angst, and searching in dark places. We love that stuff.”

Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, we all have to live on this ball of rock. There was a recent article here in Australia where our main newspaper photographed 100 babies and asked their parents what they hoped for them. Many said, “good health,” some said, “to be a doctor,” but most said, “I want them to be happy.”

It’s sad that those parents will not get their wish.

Don’t get me wrong – I am a very happy person. In fact, I was just feeling very happy when I discovered someone had made homemade caramels in the sales department and was handing them out at work. For two whole minutes I was happy, and then I had to go back to writing a report (that was a bit dull) and I became unhappy again.


What’s wrong with me? Should I focus more on happiness as a goal?

Well, nothing. Penelope says: “I think I’m over the happiness thing. I think I am thinking that the pursuit of happiness is, well, vacuous. I don’t think people are happy or unhappy.” Happiness is not the goal, according to many others.

A happy life or an interesting one?

Happiness is determined by our psychology towards our experiences. It is technically possible to have what some would consider an ‘unhappy set of circumstances’ and still be happy. It is possible to have everything in the world and be miserable. Happiness has nothing to do with who you are, what you have, what has happened and what might happen. Happiness is a feeling you get when you emotionally react to something. The thing that makes one person happy might not invoke the same reaction in the next person.

Some believe (Penelope included) that you cannot have an interesting life and a happy one, you have to choose. I don’t think you need to choose, but I do believe that people are overly focused on trying to get ‘happy things’ to happen to them. And why? What’s to be gained by always achieving, always winning, always gaining? Sometimes we have to lose to learn. Sometimes we have to lose to gain.

Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t fair. And Life isn’t supposed to be happy all the time.

Simple, eh?

It’s not even depressing – in fact – since embracing this concept – I have felt a lot calmer. Happiness is not the goal for me.

Life is full of illusions. I am still trying to work out where I end and the keyboard begins. By examining this concept of ‘happiness’ I am trying to let go of this fear of lousy things happening to me. I can guarantee you one thing: lousy things are going to happen in your life. That is a guarantee. Here’s another one: good things are going to happen too.

So what are you going to do about that?

Truth is, you can’t really control how much ‘happy stuff’ happens to you and how much ‘crappy stuff’. All you can do is work on your emotional reactions towards the stuff that happens, to grow internally and gain strength.

Actually, the more bad stuff that happens to us, the more we grow. We grow when great stuff happens to us as well, but often the biggest periods of growth occur after the biggest periods of rain.

  1. June 13, 2013

    Excellent article. I try to explain to my daughter that “happy” is not a state of being that she can obtain through others, nor expect to be all the time. Ever our constitution provides for the “the pursuit of happiness.” That it is not the opposite of depression, nor is it my responsibility to make her happy. She rarely obtains insight or wisdom without experiencing the lumps and bumps of experience first-hand.

    1. June 13, 2013

      Thank you, Anne for such a valuable insight. By rising above the pursuit of happiness, we free ourselves. You are so correct, we literally cannot be happy all the time – so learning this basic fact and gaining the tools to deal with the hard times (and the good times) should be our goal. Emotional strength/maturity/enlightenment is probably a better thing for the individual to focus on. But happiness is just so much more popular these days.

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