Why You Shouldn’t Chase Happiness – And What to do Instead

Happiness and fulfillment are overrated. The problem with both is that they aren’t quantifiable and highly temporary. On this basis, here is why you shouldn’t chase happiness.

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I just want to be happy. 

Next year, I’ll do more of the things that make me happy. In the future, I want a fulfilling job and a happy family. 

Many people make statements like these without realizing one essential truth: happiness and fulfillment are temporary. 

As social media bombards us with people’s “amazing lives,” we believe that there must be a way toward ultimate fulfillment. 

We think that other people are happier than us. Their lives are perfect, and somehow, they found a route toward sheer happiness. That belief creates the illusion that happiness and fulfillment are quantifiable goals, like a particular car or dream house. 

Happiness, however, isn’t a state. It’s a feeling that comes and goes. 

In the words  of Buddha,

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.”

Why You Shouldn't Chase Happiness - And What to do Instead - happy man standing in front of lake
Picture by Kal Visuals / Unsplash

Why you shouldn’t chase happiness

Because happiness isn’t a measurable entity, it’s a terrible goal. By chasing happiness, you’ll never stop wanting more because there is no clear endpoint. 

There are much better ways to become more satisfied in life – without trying too hard to be happy. 

On this basis, here’s why happiness and fulfillment aren’t worthwhile goals.

Nobody is happy 100% of the time

The first step toward having better goals is to accept that happiness isn’t a perennial state.

The idea that happiness is about smiling and being joyful all the time is a myth.

As Psychology Today points out:

Happiness is not about being happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Happiness is not about always smiling, laughing, and being joyful. It’s not about being numb to negative feelings.

In reality, happiness comes in short bursts. And these bursts are a direct consequence of how satisfied you are with your daily life.

As such, daily satisfaction is a much better goal. If you feel like you’re getting closer to your long-term goals every single day, you’ve built the basis for a content mind. And that content mind will open the floodgates for moments of intense joy to appear. 

Having the best-possible daily routine, focusing on stillness, and chasing mini-goals (like writing 500 words every day, going to the gym, or walking two miles) are all keys to satisfaction. And these keys will make happiness appear without you chasing a mirage.

Happiness is impossible to measure

Happiness has no quantifiable criteria.

Yes, you can set a goal of doubling your income or finding a significant other. You think that these will make you happy, but they won’t guarantee your happiness in the long run.

That’s because enjoyment has two primary aspects: brevity and novelty

We feel fulfilled after landing that new job because we worked hard towards it. For a short instant, we are on top of the world. After some time, however, the novelty wears off. And so does the intensity of the emotion. And that’s the natural order of happiness. 

Trying to measure something that’s by definition brief and temporary is a risky endeavor. 

Instead of chasing happiness, try to set goals that do not depend on novelty. Sticking to a productive habit for an entire year, for example, will provide long-term contentment – and allow bursts of happiness to come in from time to time.

It’s ok to have a boring life

Another reason why happiness isn’t a worthwhile goal concerns boredom. 

In truth, we all have boring lives. Influencers, actors, tech entrepreneurs – they all basically do what you do, just in a different style. 

Everybody gets up in the morning and organizes the next 24 hours. Some might be wealthier than you, and their travel destinations might look fancier, but they still perform a routine every day that might feel boring to them, even it sounds exhilarating to you.

Consequently, stop thinking that your life is boring – and that you need to travel to space to become happy. True contentment is all about finding your best lifestyle and achieving a little bit of progress every day

Once you accept that every lifestyle – no matter how glamorous, will become boring over time, you’ll stop chasing fleeting happiness – and feel more grounded. And that’s a genuinely worthwhile goal.

Groundedness is the key to fulfillment 

If you’re wondering what you should try to improve, groundedness is one of the most potent traits that you can build. 

As Brad Stulberg writes in The Practice of Groundedness,

“Groundedness is unwavering internal strength and self-confidence that sustains you through ups and downs. It is a deep reservoir of integrity and fortitude, of wholeness, out of which lasting performance, well-being, and fulfillment emerge.” 

In simple terms, groundedness is about having the self-confidence and resilience to lead life through positive and negative periods. 

If you have goals, values, and the mental drive to act according to those, you’ll stop chasing instant gratification and short bursts of joy. You’ll start working toward ambitious but down-to-earth goals, and you’ll celebrate progress. 

Happiness will be an automatic side effect of your groundedness, and you won’t have to chase it. 

In conclusion, form your grounded personality, and you won’t have to worry about chasing happiness. You’ll achieve daily contentment, and the bursts of joy that many people associate with happiness will accompany your satisfaction.

This article was originally posted on Medium.

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