Updated: Feb 15, 2022
I've been recently thinking a lot about happiness. I've noticed more and more that people are obsessed with finding happiness to the point that it's become like a measurement of success. It's drilled in us that the goal for life is to be happy, but should we really strive for happiness? If happiness is so important in our lives, why do we just accept that happiness should be our goal and why do we not question it more often?
Happiness, just like every other state of feeling, is fleeting. A life full of happiness and no suffering would be superficial while a life of pure pain and no joy would be numbing. So if happiness and suffering are both integral parts of living, why do we aim for happiness and not suffering? It seems intuitive that suffering would only give us pain, but why then do we aim for happiness? Does it not only give us joy? Is that enough? Happiness is so fragile and with the slightest prick of pain that bubble of happiness can pop, so why do we aim for something so delicate?
This is where it's important to distinguish between pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is temporary and fades quickly like what I imagine eating your favourite meal would be like. It tastes wonderful and it makes you feel 'happy' in the moment, but it doesn't last long. Happiness, on the other hand, is slightly more ingrained in one's overall state of being.
The happiness that I imagine is at the end of your life, having a tight-knit family by your side, having done something important in your life and getting to do what you enjoy. Now of course that's not what everyone imagines happiness to be, but I think most people would agree that a variation of that is something of what they would strive for. With all this said, this type of happiness or rather satisfaction seems to be more of a side effect of something else. It's grounded in something that feels so much stronger than any other type of happiness.
I've recently been listening to a few professors on their views of happiness and one idea that was common throughout, was the idea of meaning. Meaning or finding purpose in one's life is extremely important for one's own sanity and this lockdown period is a perfect example of that. For a lot of people, there was nothing to do and no driving force behind their decisions and actions which I believe is part of the reason for the rise in mental health issues. With all this said, finding meaning is not a case of waking up one morning having found it. The search for meaning is a lifelong adventure that we all face. In the same way, I truly believe the happiness that people desire, only comes after one has come to terms with their search for meaning. This is why I believe the happiness people come across before they've truly begun their search for meaning is so much more delicate than after - there is no purpose grounding it, so it can crack easier. There is something more fulfilling and less fragile about finding happiness grounded by the search for meaning. There is no meaning or even true happiness in superficiality.
So back to the question, should we strive for happiness? Being happy is no doubt important, suffering is not a life sentence; however, I really believe that striving for meaning in one's life will make it more fulfilling. There is a purpose and meaning for every action we take up in life, so it should be the same for our own lives. In turn, I believe happiness will follow - true happiness.
Do you agree or disagree, let me know!