HAPPINESS IS A WAY TO TRAVEL,
NOT A PLACE TO ARRIVE…
Happy people seem to be telling us that happiness is something we can have with us always — that it isn’t particularly tied to the accomplishment of our long-term goals in life. Clearly, there is a message that happiness needn’t lie in the future — it is something which can be experienced along the way…
If we’re enjoying each daily step in life, if we can enjoy the “work” we’re doing, if we can take time to savor the everyday pleasures of life — then our goals become somewhat secondary.
After all, as we’ve explained, the single-minded search for goal-attainment is riddled with “happiness” problems. Although their attainment may occasion a temporary jolt of happiness: it may not have much “punch”; it may not be very long-lasting; it may not be worth the effort; it may not be worth the personal sacrifices it took to achieve it; and it may never happen at all.
In terms of “happiness economics,” the goal-attainment strategy is a poor investment. The risks are high, and the payoff is low. The happiness research shows so many, more profitable, investments for the individual how is earnestly concerned with real happiness payoffs in life. Clearly, according to the data, good friendships, a rewarding family life, a close love-relationship, meaningful work, and “fun” contribute a whole lot more. And these are, generally, the sources of happiness we have around us now — not waiting in the future. The only way to win at the goal-attainment strategy is when you actually enjoy doing the everyday steps that get you there.
Thus, happiness is a way to travel, not a place to arrive. Happiness should be the way we go through life, not a goal waiting for us at the end.
For happy people, this seems to be the fundamental approach. Every day is a happy day. Certainly, they have their goals and dreams; and if those goals and dreams come to pass, so much the better!
But what if they don’t come to pass? Well, that’s the beauty of it! They’ll still be happy like they’ve always been!
As good as all this might sound, however, it raises a small dilemma for most of us. Apparently, the real secret to happiness lies in the present, not particularly in the future. Thus, the tough part for most of us is how to find happiness in our life “these days.” If we could do this, we too could travel through life happily, and stop postponing our happiness until later.
The other way to look at it is: if one can’t learn the secret to happiness in the present, nothing in the future may make much difference. If you can’t learn to be happy within the constraints of your own particular situation “these days,” what makes you think any great achievements in the future are going to change things around?