Stop chasing happiness, seek meaning

Everyone seems to be on a mission to be happier, which of course is admirable but happiness is not a destination.

Despite what the click bait articles and the social media charlatans will have you believe, happiness is not a destination you arrive at and then experience eternally at all times.

Happiness is an emotion, a state of mind and like all emotions it is fleeting. But this is not a bad thing, I mean if we were happy all the time, life would be a bit boring.

It’s a pretty well documented topic of thought that many of us believe if we get this car, that job, x amount of Instagram followers, that salary increase and so on, that we will suddenly find happiness. However, what tends to happen is that we feel no different when we get these things. We generally experience a uplift in mood but this is very short term and then we revert back to a state of mind of what’s next and maybe if i had this, then I’ll feel happy.

It’s kind of like a trap right – obtain this and you will be happy, only to get the thing and realise, shit, nothings different.

So why does this happen? why do we keep chasing happiness and but can never seem to catch it?

Maybe it’s because we are focused on the wrong thing, maybe we are chasing a false metric and we don’t understand what the concept of happiness really means. As I mentioned before, happiness is an emotion it’s not a destination you arrive at and can forever stay in. This is not how emotions work, they come and go, you don’t stay angry, sad or excited all the time do you? this is the same with happiness.

I’m of the belief that constantly chasing happiness as a destination is a long and unfulfilling road. Let me make it clear that I believe pursuing and doing things that make you happy is very different than reaching x achievement because you think it will make you happy.

This is where I’m going to offer an alternative methodology to happiness and the first thing you need to do, is to stop chasing happiness. Yes, you read that right, stop chasing happiness. Now I know that’s not what all the self help gurus will tell you, but hear me out.

We spend so much of our lives trying to attain the feeling of happiness, it’s like crack and we want it, all the time. The problem lies in that no matter what we seem to do or what new goal we tell ourselves we’ll find happiness in once we’ve completed it, it never seems to come – well not for a sustained time anyway.

This can become a vicious cycle where we tell ourselves that we need more and will feel happier once we’ve done the next thing. But then quite quickly we realise the next thing didn’t do it either and then it becomes the next thing, the thing after that and that, and so on the cycle goes.

What I find is that we get to a position where we feel like crap, we feel like this because we are chasing something that is not attainable in the context that most of us design in our minds. Again, let me be clear, we can all be happy, find happiness in moments and create happy memories but we cannot always be happy.

So chasing happiness could actually be making you more unhappy – not what you wanted to hear but of course there is hope and you can completely disagree with this article too.

Let me float this idea to you – instead of chasing happiness, how about we seek meaning?

Firstly let me unpack my definition of seeking meaning, which is quite simply the reasons you live for, why you get out of bed in the morning, why you do the things you do.

Some people might call this their purpose or passion, but I personally feel like the word meaning has a bit more credibility to it. I find if I tell someone this is my purpose, then I could sound very much like an organised religion and the word passion I always find to be very misleading, as many people have lots of passions, but this does not mean these things give you the why of what you do – hence why I find the advice of follow your passions to also be a bit ambiguous.

Some classic examples of meaning can be found in people who work in law enforcement and medical care. The slogan of many law enforcement establishments all over the world is to protect and serve. Many people choose this profession because that is their personal definition of meaning, to protect and serve other people is what brings meaning to their life, gets them up every morning and fuels their passion.

Once again with the just truly amazing people who work in medical care as nurses and doctors, their meaning is found in helping others. What brings meaning to people in these professions is the ability to help others and with this meaning, many moments of happiness can be found.

You can examine this across work for many people, even myself. What brings gives me meaning is the opportunity to help people grow, to enable human development through my little world of learning and development.

To help others in their pursuit of growing as a person is what brings me meaning and out of this I find passion in the work because it drives my existence.

Of course, not everyone knows what their meaning is and even those that do are not always in a position where they can live that meaning.

I should be clear that your own personal version of meaning can be anything, it does not have to be related to a career. It can be found in loving your partner, raising children or creating the world’s most loved cookies. It can be found in anything, but it has to speak to you, it has to be the thing that gets you out of bed everyday, the thing that when you do it, you know this is what you were meant for.

The absolutely wonderful thing about meaning is that it can help us capture moments of that sweet elixir we all crave that I kicked off this piece with – happiness.

I find that discovering your meaning in this life is a far more emotionally helpful thing than chasing happiness ever will be – but why?

Because knowing and doing what brings you meaning will lead you to happiness.

Chasing happiness as we’ve talked through is a bit of a psychological minefield, as we all want to be happy but we don’t know what will make us happy. We invest our time in pursuing mostly superficial and materialistic goals as we believe the world of happiness awaits us after obtaining/achieving these, but as we know, it never does.

Yet in seeking meaning instead of chasing happiness, we open the doors to creating the happy moments we all crave so much.

Knowing what brings you meaning, can create a passion which can build a sense of fulfilment and belonging, all of which lead to feeling happy.

As we get to the wrap up of this article, let’s recap on what we’ve explored so far:

  • Happiness is not a destination, it is a emotion and emotions come and go, they are not a state you can always exist within.
  • We won’t find happiness by chasing the next thing and the next thing (not in my experiences anyway, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.)
  • The pursuit of meaning is in understanding what gets you out of bed in the morning, what do you live for – this is your meaning.
  • Your personal definition of meaning can be anything – career, love, food, raising children, taking over the world with fire and blood (maybe not so much that last one, but whatever works for you).
  • In knowing your meaning, you open up the opportunity to create happy moments, to feel happy, belong and discover a sense of fulfilment or a lust for life if you will.

The final thought I want to leave you with is this – stop chasing happiness, seek meaning and maybe you might just find more of what you’ve always been craving.

Let me also finish off with this quote, which I hope you can find some direction in as I have too.

Before you go…

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You might also like:

Why the effect we have on people is the most valuable currency we all have.

 5 books I recommend for everyone to learn, develop and grow to be a better person.

Questions Tony Robbins shared with me to explore meaning in my own life.

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