Why do people chase happiness?

They chase happiness because they think that will make them happy. And they think being happy will make their lives better.

It doesn't really work that way though. You can't catch happiness. Happiness is an emotion and like all emotions it is fleeting. It comes and goes moment to moment.

The problem with "chasing happiness" is that having happiness as a life goal is not a good thing. It's what I would call a proxy problem. What people really want is to thrive or to be content or eupraxsophy (I hate that word btw). What we humans really seem to want is something other than happiness and tied to happiness but that is more than happiness.  We don't really have a good word for it - except to say - we want good full lives.  And we feel like we are failing when we aren't optimizing our lives.

Psychologists have a term for this - it's called wellness syndrome where we tie our concept of wellness to morality. It's not healthy or good for us mentally as it can create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and when we fail to meet those unrealistic expectations, we feel bad - not good.

A better way is to understand your goal isn't happiness but to live life fully, whatever that means to you. When the bad moments come - and they will come, they are part of the experience. The good moments, same thing.

What helps us feel fulfilled is knowing that our lives matter, not just to us but to others.  This is an existential matter tied to our awareness of death. Our lives, in the big scheme of things don't matter. Yet, we need to feel like we matter to feel ok.  Carl Sagan addressed the solution to this in his book Contact - “She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ― Carl Sagan, Contact

Being of service to others. Caring for others. Doing our best to be and to manifest love, even when we are stressed out. This is what gives our lives meaning. This is what helps us to feel ok and connected and that we matter. The key to feeling connected is to not focus on yourself. It is to focus on how you can be of service to others.

If we want to be happy, we should stop chasing happiness and focus instead on mattering. What can you do that will matter to others and help others? If you can accomplish that, you will feel very satisfied and happy with yourself regardless of the details and problems you face. This is the Humanist way.

This essay first appeared on Quora -

If you want to learn more – may I suggest the following books:
      or dvd  

My online course – Living Made Simpler -
Or any of the following life skills courses -

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...