“Make yourself happy, and everything else will fall into place.”
“Commit yourself to chasing your own happiness.”
“Put people around you that are dedicated to making you the happiest you can be.”
All of these and thousands of other quotes just like these are what we see on hundreds of social media accounts from hundreds of people every day.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
In today’s world, mental health has taken more of priority than ever, (for good reason, almost certainly either you or someone you know has been effected by suicide–let alone depression, anxiety, etc.) As such, this crisis has caused us all to search for the hidden answers–the deeper meanings of life. We look at our own mental health, and wonder what can we do to be better. More whole. More happy.
We chase after things that we think will fill our lives with the most happiness: people, pets, travel, a creative job, etc.
We start to become more distinctly aware of what parts of our life make us feel happiest and which do not.
We start to edit and cut our lives–trying to eliminate more of what doesn’t bring us happiness and try to add everything that does.
We workout, get enough sleep, eat right, and do fun activities in the name of self-care, as we understand it to be an essential part of our well-being.
We become obsessive over letting into our lives only the people who positively affect our energy, and dismiss anyone and anything that doesn’t.
We think if we follow all of Instagram’s quotes for success, the universe will magically notice how hard we are working and start surrounding us with everything we love and everything that makes life easier for us.
But are we happy yet?
We clearly are not.
The millions of dollars profited from companies manufacturing depression and anxiety medication is a clear sign of that.
And that’s because chasing happiness will not make you happy.
No matter what happiness means to you–perfecting self-care, having a good relationship with the universe, allowing only people with ‘good energy’ around you–you will always come up short, IF the focus is on YOU.
And I understand that’s a bit of a blasphemous thing to say in a society smitten with self-care. (And don’t get me wrong: I believe in self care. And I practice it.) However, I think it’s important to realize, that the more things we start doing for our own happiness, end up falling short in the end. See, happiness if fleeting. It doesn’t nourish the soul. And that means we will always be searching for more and more things to make us happy, and that search will intensify even more when we realize we still truly aren’t. It’s like trying to fill a black hole. You can throw all you want in there, but you’re not going to fill it up.
See, chasing happiness puts us in the star role of life. All the decisions we end up making we base off of if they will bring happiness to ME. All the people we have in our life are there only if we think they can do something for ME. All we do in life, no matter what good they may be, we do to make ME happy. And when we put ourselves on that throne, we inevitably become “smaller” though our goal is to take up more space. We fail at our life’s mission–to bring ourselves the most happiness. Not only that, but we don’t use our unique giftings to help those around us. Maybe a bit, if helping people brings you happiness, but only to a certain degree. Not to the degree it could be if ME isn’t the prime focus.
In contrast, chasing MEANING results differently.
Chasing meaning takes the focus off of ourselves, and changes the equation from what can they do for me, and what can I do for me, to “what can I do for them.” And the result ends up being something much more beautiful than you could have attained while pursuing your own happiness the hardest.
Meaning has to do with long-term fulfillment, not short-term feelings.
Chasing meaning is inclusive, chasing happiness is exclusive.
Chasing meaning produces healthier people, (both yourself and others), while chasing happiness results in more mental unhealthiness.
Chasing meaning has to do with your soul. It bears fruit along its journey and feeds others with it, whereas happiness (as a focus) takes fruit from others.
It’s not about what life can do for you. It’s about what you can do for life.
It makes room for other people along your path.
Now, in the end, meaning also will fall flat–if you are living to make yourself greater. I think if we live to bring ourselves glory, it will always result in brokenness.
But generally speaking, living for meaning I believe makes us more helpful, whole and joyful people, whereas living for happiness results, ironically, in our lack of it.
I think this is so important because mental health is important and because people are important. As I’ve watched well-meaning people trying to fill the holes and be the best they can be, I noticed chasing happiness as the prime medication for that. And yet, these same people become more and more anxious and dissatisfied with life. If you are somebody chasing happiness as a means for wholeness, I would urge you to honestly look at your life and see how your heart is. How your mind is. Though you may have short-term feelings of happiness, I assure you, if that remains your focus you will continue searching for that pot of gold beneath the rainbow, and will wind up exhausted and discouraged.
When people put a higher emphasis on meaning over happiness, I think they truly are in for something much more beautiful, something much more whole. I believe these are the people who truly become impactful to the society around them, as they include others along their journey and love people more for who they are, not what they can do for them. I think there is so much more to life than being happy. And ironically, I believe the more society stops chasing their happiness as a focus, the more happy society will be.