Guest post by Debbie LaChusa
I’ve learned the pursuit of happiness can be just as much of a detractor from true happiness as too much focus on money and success. According to the dictionary, “pursuit” means an effort to secure or attain. That means we don’t currently possess the object of our pursuit. In the case of happiness, pursuit implies that we believe we have to achieve or obtain something to be happy. But the truth is, we don’t.
I realized that during my quest for success I was considerably more focused on doing all the things I believed would make me happy than I was on just being happy. As a result, I often sacrificed current happiness for the hope of future happiness. The problem with that is, often, what we believe will make us happy, doesn’t. It’s simply the way our minds, memories, and imaginations work.
Additionally, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many of us lose our ability to find happiness in life’s simple pleasures. Granted, life is more complicated for adults. We have responsibilities such as jobs, bills, and children. But, far too often, we let these responsibilities squelch our innate happiness. We begin to believe that happiness, or the lack of it, is based on what we do or what we have. We recognize that we experience joy when we get a promotion, a new car, or a new client, and we begin attributing happiness to these things.
Often, without realizing it, we begin comparing ourselves to others.
They seem happy and have things we don’t—therefore, we assume if only we had what they have, we’d be happy too. We become so wrapped up in what we don’t have or don’t like about our lives that we begin believing we can’t be happy until we get that promotion, new car, or new client. Unfortunately, accomplishments, material possessions, and money can make us happy, but that happiness usually doesn’t last.
If you’ve gotten caught up in the materialistic pursuit of happiness, how do you get back on track?
How do you start simply being happy? First, you realize the past is the past and you can’t change it. There is no sense beating yourself up over decisions you cannot undue. Instead, make a decision to begin living your life differently from this point on and start taking steps to right your ship. You can continue to have a vision for the future, set goals, and pursue dreams, just make sure you’re enjoying the pursuit.
In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt writes about the fleeting nature of happiness derived from achieving goals. He refers to a concept he calls “the progress principle,” which suggests we gain more pleasure from the pursuit of our goals than the actual achievement of them. According to Haidt, when we constantly dream about how happy we’ll be when we achieve a goal, once we finally do succeed, the euphoria is very often fleeting. Because of this, we strive to recreate that euphoria by immediately setting a new goal. Therefore, if we want to be happy and not just chasing fleeting spurts of happiness, our focus should be on enjoying the journey to our goals.
If you’re a goal setter, ask yourself if you are pursuing your goals for the happiness you expect to feel when you achieve them or if the pursuit itself brings you happiness. If the pursuit doesn’t make you happy, reconsider how important the goals are. Ask yourself why you are pursuing them. If your goals are not about happiness but are important to you, pursue them if you choose. The key is to be aware of what you’re doing and why.
Adapted from Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness by Debbie LaChusa.
About Debbie LaChusa
Despite becoming a vice president in her thirties, building three successful businesses in her forties, becoming a millionaire, speaking internationally, and sharing the stage with celebrity teachers from The Secret, Debbie LaChusa never felt satisfied. After spending seven years and $200,000 constantly trying to achieve more, she realized she had become spellbound. She looked around and saw she wasn’t alone, prompting her to embark on a yearlong investigative journey to understand why, so she could heal herself and help others. Breaking The Spell is the result of that journey. You can learn more about the book and read the first chapter for free at www.BreakingTheSpellBook.com