“If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything, you can be anything! Do what you want so that you’re happy.” I overheard a thirty something telling a college student this in casual conversation the other day. It got my attention as I pondered all that the future held for this college gal. I loved the encouraging words yet, I took pause at the idea of doing what you want so that you’re happy.
Can we really do anything we want? And furthermore, are we meant to aim only for happiness?
There is a popular belief that a lack of happiness is to be dreaded above all. Struggle, strife, and unhappiness cheat us from all life is supposed to be. We leave jobs, spouses, families, teams, and commitments that don’t make us happy. The message is we are meant to be happy and it is the worlds job to ensure this end. You must keep looking until you find happiness. When did happy become the goal?
In the book Amusing Ourselves To Death, author Neil Postman describes societal downfalls as a culmination of the pursuit of pleasure, specifically as related to demanding entertainment in the political and news realms. RJ Snell writes in Acedia and Its Discontents of the idea that the desire for freedom to do what we want is actually not freedom at all. These two authors bear witness to our inability to understand what makes us happy and how counterintuitive chasing pleasure is to our experiencing it. Contrary to popular belief, it seems as though we stumble upon happiness when we pursue what we were created for instead of grasping at what we want—more pleasure, less responsibility, a feeling, or a freedom.
Happiness is an elusive end-goal that is better experienced as a by-product of a balanced and intentional life. When we begin to pursue values and live as the men and women we want to be, we find happiness because we are living aligned. We are created to work. We are created for relationship. We are created to play. We are created for responsibility. We are created for balance.
And to this end, we answer the question of can we really do whatever we want as “yes, and…” Yes, you are meant for choice, and true choice never comes without boundaries and limits. Yes, you have the freedom to pursue what you want, and also the knowledge and ability to choose what’s best. Yes, you can puruse happiness, and the way to experience it may not be simply chasing it.
Writen by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.
To learn more about what does and doesn’t help you experience happiness, contact me today!