The United States Declaration of Independence states "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" are among the "unalienable rights" given to all humans by their creator.
Happiness has become the goal of most people in the modern world. But is such a goal even realistic or smart to pursue? Happiness is very similar to a feeling of satisfaction after a great meal. No matter what brings on the feeling initially, remains fleeting. The feeling is never sustainable.
The human brain is designed to build up “tolerance” to almost every external stimulus. This means, the level of satisfaction you get from something will always decline over time if you are overexposed. Think about the first time you watch an amazing movie that has a strong emotional impact on you. With every repeated viewing, the impact of the movie gets weaker.
Drugs work the same way. Two glasses of wine might make you tipsy initially. But drink two glasses of wine every day and eventually you feel nothing. This also explains the “honeymoon stage” of most romantic relationships. Everything is fresh, new and exciting at first. However, overtime your mind develops “tolerance” and the behaviors that initially enchanted you with someone can start to lose any meaningful emotional impact.
Its clear that human progress is the result of building up “tolerance” over time. What is good enough for us today is no longer good enough tomorrow. If humans had the natural capacity to be satisfied, we would all still be riding around on horses instead of cars, trains and planes. Its our very nature to never be satisfied. So why then, is happiness seen as a “goal” for so many people? Its almost as silly as making a full stomach your life goal. Some people actually attempt this goal and the result is obesity. Just like your stomach can never stay full; you can never stay happy.
Ultimately, the pursuit of happiness can actually cause misery. When consistent happiness remains elusive throughout a person’s life, they might start to believe there is something wrong with them. Especially in today’s climate of “oversharing” on social media where people only showcase the best aspects of their lives. Its very easy for someone to feel defective when, in reality, no one in their right mind is constantly happy.
Rather than spending your life chasing happiness, its much more constructive to spend your life chasing purpose, personal growth and meaning. Contrast is what makes life rich. You have to experience struggle and adversity in order to truly appreciate joy. This means constantly challenging yourself and leaving your comfort zone.
Perpetual growth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom is the best way to give meaning and purpose to life. Since bad experiences, crisis and suffering are inevitable… meaning and purpose is necessary to provide the resilience required to endure hardships.
Pursing happiness is a good example of seeking an external solution to an internal problem. When life has no purpose to someone… things like worldly success, fame, status, relationships and money have no meaning. The external environment only has significance when a person’s internal life has purpose.