The Pursuit of Happiness… is what exactly?

We are taught to pursue happiness.

We’ve written books and made movies about this concept and been inspired and motivated by it too.

But what does this phrase really mean? Is it different for each person and is it a notion that we are aspiring to achieve but don’t necessarily have any idea what we are reaching  for?

The word happiness clearly must be defined but are we defining it via one cultures’ expression of happiness or all cultures? And what about the assumption that what makes me happy equally makes you happy?
So then, firstly we must pursue an understanding of what we are pursuing, why we are pursuing it and if indeed we need to actually pursue it.
The word ‘happiness’ is defined simply as being ‘the state of being happy’.  Other ways to describe happiness are contentment, pleasure, satisfaction, well-being, lightheartedness, exuberance, euphoria, transports of delight and rapture, just to name a few!  I don’t think it is a simple thing to try and pursue something as complex and full as happiness until one can define what it is that causes that state of being to occur.
So clearly, what makes one person happy does not necessarily define another person’s happiness. Gosh, it’s all a bit complicated, isn’t it?
Today I read a fantastic blog by Susan Kiernan-Lewis  about balance. Really encouraged me as I’ve been trying to forge that word into my life for the past lifetime without a lot of great success!!
Actually my thoughts have been very scrambled of late as I write goals and consider the potential outcomes of this coming year and notice the tension in my thinking and the taught sound of my voice as I consider that I may achieve nothing at all.  How will I feel about that? About not achieving my goals?  And what defines achievement anyway? Who makes that call, that I haven’t achieved something?  Is it me or society?
Today my conclusion is that as beautiful a pursuit of balance is, it does not compare to pursuing what causes you to feel a sense of inner peace, well being and acceptance.  Now I do need to make a note here: a healthy pursuit of happiness does not annihilate someone else’s needs; drive another person into the ground on your behalf or cause another individual harm, pain or emotional distress.  So many times we read in magazines and books and on the Internet and see in tv shows and movies that people do things ‘in the name of pursuing their dreams’, their own happiness etc and the other person is left high and dry. I’m not talking about a pursuit where you are the only winner.

There’s another side to pursing our own happiness and that is the side of ‘do unto others what you would like them to do to you’ – being considerate of how other people are travelling in their pursuit and working out ways to accommodate both parties.  A deeper sense of contentment seems to spring forth from this kind of mutual pursuit…
Ultimately, as I sit here thinking about my goals and the reality of my somewhat ‘balance’ and mostly unbalanced lifestyle coming into play, I see that I may need to do a little reassessing along the way… perhaps redefine some of my time frames and expectations and take on board the fact that my achievement of my goals is in fact less important than my pursuit of happiness.
So what is this pursuit of happiness for me?  Well, it’s knowing I am loved, being able to look in the mirror of life and know that who I am matters more than what I do.  I say to my teenage sons all the time ‘be the very best version of you that you can be’ – because when the rubber hits the road, people won’t be flocking to the celebrities and well-to-do’s of the world:  they’ll be rushing to find people of authenticity, depth.  People who represent relationship and solidarity.  People who can be relied upon to be real.  So if I manage to sell my music to a few hundred people rather than a few million, and I have a loyal readership of one instead of one thousand, but I am real – I am the very best version of Miriam that I know how to be, then I think that’s the pursuit of happiness for me.
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