Every individual is in hot pursuit of happiness, but along the way, most people tend to lose all meaning of life, since their sole purpose becomes attaining happiness. The problem is that you will never have enough because human beings always want more and trying to compete with others to find happiness leads to continuous pursuit, which means life has no other meaning.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson.
The fast-paced life that we lead today is based all around feelings, with people being motivated to search for happiness in their lives. That pursuit has led to people losing all sense of ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ in life because the only goal they have is to achieve is perfect bliss and happiness. But are you chasing after shadows? If your only purpose in life is to find happiness, then you’re looking at life all wrong, because it has more to it than that.
Thomas Jefferson believed that there was hope for people if they could make sense of their lives and figure out what a gift they had been given. Most people take life for granted, therefore, they’re unable to make proper sense of it. There is more to life than being happy because if you don’t have ambitions, goals, and don’t want to struggle a day to make them a reality, there is no way you will stumble on the road to happiness. This also means that you will lose all meaning in life.
One of the things that scares most people is to live a life without purpose. That is why most people choose to run after happiness in life but is that the best way to go about things? Happiness is an emotion that is felt in everyday life, but like all emotions, it passes away. The positive feelings that happiness brings are fleeting, and you will move past them eventually. Most people report that feeling good or bad about themselves is related to their happiness, but not related to meaning.
The reason that is the case is that meaning is enduring and is meant to connect the past, with the present, and with the future as well. That is the reason why people devote their professional careers, to find a reality that is shared by other people who are living life large because they found happiness.
The Never-Ending Pursuit of Happiness
In previous generations, it didn’t take much for people to achieve happiness in life, possibly because life wasn’t so complicated in those days. They had the freedom to worship whoever they wanted, or how they wanted to, and they could bear arms to protect against attacks from the British or the French since there was no military, food to eat, a roof over their head, wood for a fire, or money. Yet, those people still managed to attain happiness in their lives.
Those are all the things that everyone takes for granted today, and every individual has access to them, but no one is happy. The reason is simple, the older generation had meaning in their lives, and wasn’t running after happiness. The pursuit of happiness that the current generation is embroiled in has made life complicated, because nothing is good enough, and this has led to selfish behavior and characteristics of people becoming the norm. The consumer-driven society of today makes everyone feel inferior about themselves so that they spend even more on products they don’t need to make themselves happy.
Happiness is just a feeling, and not a permanent state, which is something that not many people thinking about when they are chasing after it. The feelings of happiness will eventually fade away, and they won’t bring you the satisfaction or validation of life that you crave.
The Search for Meaning
If you are focused on achieving happiness in life and don’t focus on giving your life any direction or meaning, you are going to be disappointed. However, you shouldn’t give up hope, because even negative events in your life, which decrease happiness, can help provide meaning in your life. The emotional and traumatic experiences you end up with can build character, and teach you hard lessons that make an individual more compassionate and given them a deeper understanding of others.
There are meanings all around you in life, but the reason you don’t see them or understand them is that you refuse to acknowledge them. If you are centered only on yourself and have a selfish perception of everything in life, you won’t find meaning in anything. You must set meaningful goals for yourself, which should be centered around helping others to attain higher satisfaction in life. Living a life with purpose is hard, which is why most people give up on their search for meaning in life.
“People who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy.”
In essence, if you want to find the meaning of life, you must not be afraid to get down and get your hands dirty. If you put others before your own happiness, you will attain true happiness, because that is what builds meaning in your life. To achieve meaning in life, you must overcome past grief, failures, and abuse, and don’t live a life with resignation and regret. You must be resilient, and strong to resolve your past problems and achieve growth in your character.
Happiness versus Meaning
There are different stages of happiness, and everyone has their own spin on what constitutes as happiness in their life. This makes it harder to gauge whether one should run after happiness or meaning in their life. Living in the present generation, it is all about temporary pleasure, because society as a whole is continuously evolving and striving to achieve new things.
"Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.”
Everyone is living moment to moment, day to day, and is focused on searching for novel sensations and pleasures that are fleeting. In their ideal life, people will make time for friends, and go on exotic vacations, which is related to them achieving happiness in life.
“Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life.”
This was the way people used to think about achieving a meaningful life, but that isn’t what life is all about. The people, who were unhappy because of negative experiences in their past, couldn’t achieve any semblance of happiness. This is because they didn’t get closure from the negative traumas and experiences of their past. Conversely, people who continuously focus on the good old days, are clinging to their happiness from the past.
Even though they are experiencing positive emotions, it doesn’t add any meaning in their life. The people, who are focused on their future are the people, who are going to get things done and are motivated to achieve their goals. However, in extreme cases, they become workaholics, and live dull but boring lives, even though they are living meaningful lives.
So, how does an individual find meaning in their lives, while trying to find happiness? Is there a way that a person can find the balance between happiness and meaning in their lives?
The Time Cure
It is important that you focus on finding balance in your life while focusing on happiness. The meaningful experiences you have in your life, are going to help you balance out meaning and happiness. Think about it this way. If you are stuck in negative emotions and keep on replaying all the negative things that have happened in your life, you will find how you can start replacing those negative experiences with positive ones. In this manner, you can start making plans to achieve a better and brighter future, which will provide you with the balance you want.
If you are focused on the present and want to know what your life is worth now, you should practice incorporating fun activities into your daily life. Taking it slow and one day at a time, will allow you to find meaning in your present life, which will make it easier to build towards a happier future. If you are focused on the future and don’t have time to happy in the present, then you must learn how to balance between your endless goals and stop to appreciate what you have.
What is Happiness?
We aren’t talking about the definition of happiness, but about the age-old million-dollar question of what happiness means to you, and how do you define happiness in your life. If you ask someone about happiness, they will tell you that an individual, who has lived a life with meaning and positive experiences will be happy. However, not everyone will define happiness in the same terms, because it means something different to every individual.
Happiness is something that is meant to be elusive, because there isn’t a recipe to achieving it, and no matter how hard you try to explain it, there is no certain way to guarantee happiness for someone. Happiness is an experience that you can only feel, but trying to make sense of it and explain to someone else how you manage to attain it is impossible. Everyone must find happiness in their own way and manner, by making sense of their lives, and finding meaning in it. There is no secret about the fact that every individual wants to achieve happiness in their lives, but can they be coached to achieve it? What is true happiness anyway?
The one thing people forget about when talking about happiness, is that they will not find happiness unless they experience suffering and negativity. It is only because of your negative emotions will you be able to make sense of your current feelings, and how you can achieve happiness ultimately. There are different paths you can take to achieve happiness, and set goals for yourself, but it ultimately comes down to what makes sense to you as an individual.
“Does it mean being free of all cares? Do we suddenly let go of all our baggage?”
When you are focused on happiness in life, you will become a taker, because the sole purpose of your life is to attain that happy state where you are accomplished and content. However, if you don’t have meaning in your life when you achieve happiness, you won’t be able to make sense of it. Instant gratification and fleeting happiness will imprison your mind into believing that the only way you can achieve true satisfaction from your life is if you only think about yourself.
However, that selfish way of living will leave you down a path that is very difficult to come back from. Most people are only focused on the short-term picture because they want to stop feeling bad, and focus on happiness. Therefore, they choose to live a life without any meaning because they don’t want to make sense of what they are going through. Everyone talks about happiness, but you don’t find many people talking about the journey, or the path they had to tread to find it.
“Are we desperately seeking happiness because we’re more miserable than ever before, despite the many perks of modern life?”
It seems like human beings are driven by the need to find happiness, and the current society is so obsessed with it that they are willing to attain it at any cost. That is sad because people don’t know that the only way they are going to achieve happiness is by giving their life deeper meaning. Happiness can be attained, and it is something that you should strive for, but the cost of attaining happiness shouldn’t be so great that you are left with regrets.