Have you ever had this experience where suddenly you start seeing the same kind of message pop up randomly in several different places?

It’s happened to me multiple times. And every time it does, I pay attention.

(I remember reading a quote somewhere that we’re never given a message we don’t need to hear. But I digress).

I had that experience again recently.

First, I was scrolling through Instagram and stumbled across a caption by Ben Kelly that caught my attention.

Then, just a day later, I was reading 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson and noticed the same message pop up.

The message?

Happiness should not be the end goal.

Now, I’m super sensitive to anytime I use or hear the word “should“, but hear me out.

As Ben mentioned in his post, when we make happiness the metric for success, we set ourselves up for failure any time we don’t feel happy. There is a whole range of emotions to feel and experience, and limiting ourselves to just one in order to feel successful is a disaster waiting to happen.

Then we have Peterson, who criticized the idea that happiness was the proper goal for life while on a radio interview. He suggested that a deeper meaning was required that had “more to do with developing character in the face of suffering than with happiness”.

Instead of making happiness our end goal, let’s focus our efforts towards fulfillment, purpose, and meaning. 

By living with a sense of purpose, we are able to stay the path when happiness has left the building. Because let’s be honest: if we’re pursuing something meaningful, there are going to be times where things just suck.

I’m not always thrilled to jump out of bed at 5am and start writing.

Starting your own business isn’t always going to be a joyful experience.

And a disaster-relief worker is not always (ever?) happy to get to the scene.

Fulfillment, not happiness.

Yes, we want to allow happiness in whenever possible, but if we’re committed to a cause bigger than ourselves, we’ve got to be ready to handle the full spectrum of emotions by, as Byron Katie teaches, “loving what is”.

By denying all other emotions to only prioritize happiness, we end up avoiding doing what needs to be done in order to step into the person we’re here to become.

One last quote from our homey Viktor Frankl:

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”

Let’s recalibrate our internal navigation systems towards fulfillment, purpose, and meaning, and allow happiness to ensue as a fun byproduct.


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