Must We Pursue Happiness To Find It?

Must We Pursue Happiness To Find It?

Robert Kornfeld, DPM thinks that in order to experience happiness, our definition of happiness must change, and our relationship with happiness cannot be fleeting.

Happiness. What is it? Why is it so elusive? Is it a thing that we must search for and then once found, hold onto? Is it an experience? Is it a state of being? Is it something we must “deserve”? Why do so many of us feel unhappy, unfulfilled, empty? Do we even know what happiness is? How much “work” is involved in achieving it? These are questions that centuries worth of philosophers and theologians have tried to address.

Merriam-Webster defines happiness in 2 ways – 1. a state of well-being or contentment or 2. A pleasurable or satisfying experience. If you look at both of these, by their very construct, they both are fleeting. After all, a “state” of well-being or contentment is just that, a state. Not permanent. Just what exists now. Likewise, an experience can bring happiness, but an experience has a beginning and an end. Is happiness, therefore, fleeting?  Something we can only feel when our expectations are fulfilled? Something we feel in a moment of being touched deeply? Is happiness like an orgasm? Wonderous in the moment but gone too soon?


An experience can bring happiness, but an experience has a beginning and an end. Is happiness, therefore, fleeting? Click To Tweet


It is interesting to ponder what makes you happy. Most people can write a list of things that make them happy or a list of things that would make them happy if it were part of their experience. Few people are genuinely happy. Few people experience happiness on a daily basis. Since we have been taught that happiness is something to strive for, we believe that thought. If we are in love, we are happy. If we are healthy, we are happy. If we have a lot of money, we are happy. If we have good friends, we are happy. If the weather is nice, we are happy. If we are doing something we love, we are happy. We have been taught by society that there is a list of requirements to be sought after in the “pursuit of happiness”. In my mind, the pursuit of happiness implies that we are running from unhappiness. If we are not pursuing happiness, are we accepting unhappiness? Is unhappiness the default human experience?

With all of our intellectual and technological advances, one thing is for certain. We do not have a “formula” for happiness. In fact, the majority of people admit that they are either not happy or wish that they were happier. And why is that? Precisely because we have been taught to pursue happiness, our experience of happiness lies outside of ourselves, in some mysterious combination of love, sex and money and/or some combination of exhilarating experiences. If this is true, no wonder most people are exhausted by the pursuit of happiness. It’s like a snowflake. Beautiful to behold but gone if you try to hold onto it.

So where do we find happiness? I do not believe the old cliché that “happiness lies within”. Looking inside will not reveal happiness because in my opinion, happiness must be recognized. If you do not know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it?

Here is my definition of happiness: Happiness is a consistent awareness that you are capable of creating change, open enough to direct it where you wish and powerful enough to implement it. This definition does NOT mean that you will always be in a state of bliss. That, in my mind, is completely unrealistic. What it does mean is that “things” will never create any kind of lasting happiness, whether it be money, material goods, success at what you do for work, relationships, sex, health, etc. All of those can be (and often are) fleeting. However, awareness is permanent. Once you open yourself up to the reality that you are more powerful than you could ever imagine, that you are NOT a victim of your circumstances, you are halfway there. Happiness manifests from the ability to recognize what is not working for you, creating a plan to change it, being committed enough to be consistent with the plan and ultimately creating a more satisfying reality by implementing the changes into your life.

Therefore, it is my opinion, that in order to experience happiness, you must be willing to shed all of your limiting beliefs about yourself. You must be courageous enough to be honest with yourself, vulnerable enough to risk failing, and committed enough to stay the course until you have created the change you desire. Is this easy? Not at all. But how badly do you want to be happy? Think of it. We may not be in control of every circumstance in our lives. But we are certainly in control of how we handle them. If you could change everything in your life with the wave of a wand that you weren’t happy with, could you imagine being happy? Happier? That wand is your will. Tap into it and watch what happens.

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Sherita D. Gaskins-Tillett, MD

11/02: A Weekend For Me

A Weekend For Me is a time-out for professional women to rest, reconnect with themselves, define their priorities and vision a life that they love.

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