Happiness may be overrated

It seems as though the universal goal of all people is to seek happiness- the definition of which we have never really grasped. Perhaps this is because as people we experience happiness in different ways and have very different capacities for feeling and expressing it. Therefore, it just isn’t the same for everyone.

However, we all strive for or see it as the goal for our personal and professional lives. But is it possible that the one thing we seek above all else may not be very good for us- and perhaps may leave us all with much less than what we have been promised?

Ongoing studies on the topic suggest this to be the case. According to a large amount of research, happy people have a tendency to be more selfish, naive and less successful than their less happy, more cynical counterparts. It’s hard to imagine we may have been chasing something that won’t deliver what it promises. If the research conclusions are correct, it helps to make sense of the observation that money, fame and career success often don’t lead people to be happy- and often those who have a large share of one or more of these are in emotional pain, suffering from addictions and experiencing very public break-ups and downfalls.

Is the answer to stop wishing for and striving for happiness? I don’t think so. Instead, we may need to redefine what happiness means for all of us- and perhaps borrow from the Buddhist tradition that teaches that “life is suffering,” which helps believers take the bad times in stride and be completely present when life offers them happy love, meaningful work, good health and any of the many good things that can come to us.

Accepting that a happy life is not a life free of suffering, struggle, loss and regret- but instead is one in which we take these on and put one foot in front of the other day after day, living life to the best of our ability and finding gratitude in what we are able to achieve and accomplish- may be the best answer to ‘what is happiness.”

There’s only one way to find out and today is a great time to get started.

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