The Pursuit of Happiness

What is happiness, and why do we pursue it?

Happiness is an undefinable word. Your idea of happiness and my idea of happiness may be total opposites, as one man’s happiness is another man’s misery. There are many reasons happiness is considered desirable, and many would likely agree it is desirable, but, again, there is no objective or conclusive happiness to be had.

So why do we pursue happiness? I believe it is due to our culture. Everyone says they want to be happy, so the person who doesn’t is considered strange. Everyone is out “pursuing happiness,” so this is what does the average guy thinks he must do.

The Declaration of Independence could be argued as the beginning of this culture:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our culture is based upon this abstract notion, and it seems to do more harm than good. Think of how many people abandon the good in pursuit of the perfect. This desire to constantly upgrade can be very motivating (it keeps us going to the gym), yet it can also cause us to lose sight of what’s truly important. Many women forego having children because they believe building a career will make them happy. It will not.

Now, I am not suggesting unhappiness is desirable or even that happiness is negative. I am saying that happiness cannot be pursued. It is a byproduct of living a life of purpose. What your purpose is, and how it can be found, can only be discovered by you.

Another related trap is the easy “happiness,” the kind many men will claim to have found. Some men are “happy” smoking weed and playing video games. Some men are vicariously “happy,” living through their children’s accomplishments or the victories of a sports team. Others are “happy” in the comfort of their own delusions. Think of how many men will initially reject our ideas because these ideas make them unhappy. If happiness is too easy to achieve, if we have set the bar too low, then happiness is our enemy.

A man who claims to be happy without having discovered his purpose is not truly happy, just lost. As men, we must find our purpose and pursue it, not happiness.

8 Comments on The Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Jefferson simply plagiarized the English political thinker John Locke, who championed “life, liberty and estate (property).” According to this view, Jefferson’s replacement of the word “estate” with the “pursuit of happiness,” was essentially a play on words. The “pursuit of happiness” was a euphemism for the pursuit of wealth. From this perspective, Jefferson’s vision of happiness was the “rags to riches” version of the good life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most of the men that I know that make it a point to announce and claim that they’re happy, are usually the most depressed.

    This was another good piece Matt.

    I’ll addressing this soon…


  3. That’s interesting. I knew Jefferson borrowed from Locke, but I wasn’t sure of his intentions in replacing “property” with “pursuit of happiness.”

    I think the pursuit of wealth is often very detrimental. Since most people will never be wealthy (since it’s relative), they can begin to see themselves as failures or even become fixated on acquiring more wealth if they do become wealthy.


    • ” wealthy” is subjective, for most back then was a piece of land to grow some crops, livestock, solid house to provide a family. That I am sure is still the same.
      Those few who have the talent, desire, and are prepared to take risks attain much more, without them we would have stagnant societies like the Indians etc, and those who are not stagnant will surely come along and kick our asses.


  4. Tyler the Titan // May 25, 2016 at 12:04 am // Reply

    Another great article Matt! Short and sweet is good. Your right on with purpose… Purpose is the key ingrediant of manhood, the bigger the purpose the better… Potentially.


  5. It used to be a thing called “Hamlet”.


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