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Happiness Is Not A Goal

May 16, 2011
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Happiness is something we all aim towards, but what is it exactly? We get a fleeting glimpse of it when we achieve goals we have set for ourselves, such as buying a new house or car, taking an overseas trip, finding a partner, starting our own business, earning a black belt in karate, or obtaining our driver’s license.

Once we achieve whatever goal we have set, we are happy…for a little while.

Achieving goals gives you a temporary high, but it’s a short-lived feeling of achievement and accomplishment. Shortly after, you can be left feeling flat and empty. This makes sense – after you’ve achieved a big goal, you’re no longer dedicating a large chunk of your time to achieving it. If you have nothing with which to fill that time, you’re bound to feel a void.

The key mistake here is your belief that the goal itself will make you happy. You’re making the assumption that happiness is a fixed pinnacle at some point in life that you reach and say “That’s it! I’m happy now, so I’m just going to roll with the status quo, kick back and do nothing!”

No.

Happiness is not a finish line. Happiness is an ever-expanding journey that is relative to where you are and what you have achieved in your life. As humans we’re always seeking change and challenge. As soon as we hit the bar, we set it higher.

Finding your unique path on the journey to happiness can be difficult if you can’t see past what you’ve been conditioned to desire. We live in an advertisement-laden society that preys upon our insecurities in order to sell us something. Constant exposure and conditioning makes it easy to buy into all the marketing hype and accept the default goals of society as our own. Consequently, you chase goals that have been predefined for you. Usually, this goes something along the lines of: Finish school. Buy a car. Get a degree. Get a well-paying job. Buy a better car. Make lots of money. Find a partner. Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Buy a bigger house, etc.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the above goals. They are all worthy milestones on the path of life – on the proviso that you’ve consciously chosen to achieve them and are not just walking the path expected of you.

But those goals in and of themselves are not going to fulfil you.

Happiness is not money in the bank, a ring on your finger, a house in the best neighbourhood, or a shiny new car. Happiness is the experience, the journey, the process. It is getting caught up in what you love to do. It’s seeking out change, contribution, challenge, and fun in your life.

Happiness is listening to the voice of your heart.

How can you get back in touch with what will make you happy? One of the best ways I know of is to take some time to be completely alone. Go camping, or get a cabin in the country for the week. Turn off your phone. Turn off your TV. Turn off your computer. Don’t use Facebook or Twitter. For one week, disconnect yourself from the incessant inflow of information and just be. The only items you should take apart from clothes and toiletries are a notepad and pen. Then just reflect and write. Anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s rubbish. Just do it. You will find that when you have no mental stimulation other than your own thoughts, you will think. A lot. And at first, a lot of it will be unimportant random tripe. But after few days with no external mental stimulation, you will begin to hear the soft whisper of what you really want to do. You’ll feel a pull towards certain activities and feel frustrated that you don’t have the resources to begin right away.

That’s the voice of your heart. Follow the voice. It may not lead you to the path right away, but it will point you in the right direction.

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6 Responses to “Happiness Is Not A Goal”

  1. Taz

    That’s awesome.

    Couldn’t agree more that happiness is not a destination.

    I pondered this a little while ago myself (admittedly not nearly as comprehensively as you have).

    http://nickmcintosh.com.au/2011/01/08/a-thought-on-happiness/

    Hope you’re rocking.

  2. Taz Zie,
    Like Nick I think that is awesome. We all do our own thinking (to state the obvious)but it is what we retain from that thinking and what we do with it after we have sorted through it, THAT is the important process.
    Love your work.

  3. “Pineleigh” is my ‘cabin in the country’ where I disconnect from the world, reflect and reassess.

  4. @Nick – you just said it a lot more succinctly than I 🙂

    @TonyS – Thanks! Thinking through and achieving your own goals definitely makes you much happier than fulfilling an arbitrary goal that has been set for you.

    @Evelyn – it’s the perfect place 🙂

  5. Love this!

    And yes – we find our inner voices when we silence as much of the outside influences of life as possible. The voices *telling* us what we want, as well as the those that are what other people want. Yet, we are so afraid of being alone. We so often miss the opportunity and freedom and pleasure in being alone.

  6. Definitely NikkiB. Enjoying the pleasure of being alone is necessary for happiness in our relationships with other people too, not just ourselves. After all, if we don’t enjoy our own company, who else is going to enjoy it?

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