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I typically surmise that the goal in life for most people is to find happiness. Happiness is elusive however, at least for most people. People often mistake ‘achievement’ with ‘happiness.’ It is an easy mistake to make. I forget where I heard this, but someone once put forth the idea that happiness is the realization of hard work. When one sets a goal, puts in the hard work to achieve that goal, and then experiences the success and achievement of that goal; that constitutes the feeling we think of as ‘happy.’

This is not always the case. Oftentimes the people we think of as being the most happy are actually the most sad. People who seemingly have all the success in the world; monetary riches, the love and admiration of millions, the house, the boat, the car, the kids, the spouse; are very surprisingly far from happy. Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, Margot Kidder, Verne Troyer, and David Foster Wallace are a few that come to mind from recent memory. Celebrities who shocked the world when they took their own lives. Was it that shocking though? Perhaps we should have seen it coming. I sometimes wonder that.

There are certain external factors that can help people find fulfillment or happiness. Things like financial freedom, healthy relationships garnered from friends and family, strong mental, emotional, and physical health, and an indulgence in activities that bring one fulfillment. More importantly though, I think happiness, as the Dali Lama says, must come from within. If we as humans spend too much time looking externally for happiness, more often than not, we’ll never find it. We must turn the lens upon ourselves and look inward if we are to ever truly find that elusive happiness.

Turning toward ourselves to find happiness can also be a difficult task. It requires us to acknowledge that we are flawed; that we are not complete; that we are not good enough. It requires us to accept criticism. Dare I say it might even require us to seek it out. It is a hard pill to swallow but I do think it is necessary. Charlie Munger says that in order to get what you want you must deserve what you want. Perhaps the reason we aren’t happy is because we haven’t earned it yet.

Most kids are pretty happy. I would argue it is because kids spend their time doing the things they enjoy doing. Somewhere along the path toward adulthood people seem to lose the joy and majesty for life. Why is that? What happened? I think there are a lot of reasons for this. Too many for me to go into right now, but I do think it is important to note.

This journal entry is not intended to solve the problem, but merely present the question: how does one find happiness? I do however think that a pretty good start is to stop worrying about external problems like people, jobs, the news, responsibilities; and get back to focusing on the things that matter. I can’t decide that for you however, that’s something that you’ll have to figure out for yourself.

Written by

Freelance writer and professional gig-worker. I mostly write about the impact of technology on business & culture. Find me on twitter @chasebanderson.

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