We all want to be happy, but finding “happiness” is, well, kinda hard. The nature of happiness is fleeting, dancing in the periphery. The moment you think you have a firm grasp on it, happiness slips out of your hands. This doesn’t mean happiness is impossible to obtain, but it should open our eyes to the fact that the way we pursue may be problematic. Here are 5, better ways of pursuing happiness that are supported by science:

  • Pursue Meaning, Not Happiness: Wait! What? I thought this list was about happiness? Why are you telling me to not pursue happiness? You must understand that happiness is paradoxical. In truth, the pursuit of happiness does not ultimately lead to happiness. It will be, at best, temporary. Rather, happiness comes about when an object of greater value than happiness is pursued with pure devotion. Happiness always follows a meaningful pursuit. Yet, once you make it your main pursuit, it will always remain elusive.
  • Pleasure is Fleeting: So, if pursuing happiness doesn’t ultimately lead to happiness, then what should a person pursue? What about pleasure? Seems like a good candidate for a happiness-inducing pursuit, right? It has been a long-held belief that maximal pleasure and minimal discomfort produces the greatest happiness. From the ancient Greeks to Sigmund Freud, this idea has been with us. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. Pleasure is fleeting. It does not produce long-lasting, life-enriching, satisfaction. Certainly, pleasure feels good, but it is momentary at best in the happiness it brings. What does bring true joy, as I said above, is the pursuit of meaning, purpose and significance. Work through the questions below to explore what your purpose and calling is.
    • If your not sure what your purpose is, think of what burdens you. What do you see as a problem in the world that needs fixing? Climate change? Bullying? Poverty? Human trafficking?
    • Consider that your burden may be your calling. If you are open that idea, what strengths and skills do you possess or could possess, that could help solve the problem?
    • What’s stopping you from throwing your hat into the ring and getting involved?
    • Sure, you as an individual may not be able to do much, but if you joined an organization? There is power in collective action. You, lending yourself energy and skills to a group, can accomplish much!
  • Relational Capital is the Greatest Wealth: It’s not true that “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Toys, wealth, possessions, career success, are drops in the bucket compared to meaningful, nurtured relationships. Investments in people yield the greatest return. You will live longer and be happier when you invest in meaningful relationships.

Career Crafting: Pursuing your passion in your career is certainly a valuable thing, but for many, this simply is not a reality. The majority of people do not enjoy their work. They are dissatisfied because they do not feel like what they do matters. And so, they have no drive. But there is a around this problem through the concept called “Career Crafting,” which is the idea that you can infuse a meaningful purpose into your career that transcends the job description. For example, a janitor at an elementary school performs his duties while creating meaningful bonds with the children he works with. He becomes a person the kids enjoy, look up to and care about in an intimidating environment like school. The janitor goes to work with a sense of anticipation not because he gets to clean up vomit and restock toilet paper, but because he’s passionate about investing in children.

  • Working within Your Strengths: People take great pleasure when they are working at something which involves their strengths and passions. When people work at something from an area of weakness, they may be able to perform, but, overtime, they will be drained and depleted. This is a recipe for burn out. However, working from an area of strength and passion creates vitality and motivation, even when the work is hard and tiring.

Hopefully these five ideas empower your pursuit of happiness. If you enjoyed this blog, please subscribe and follow me on my Facebook business page, Counselor Dan. And be sure to check out my books on available on Amazon.

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