Friday, October 5, 2018

Why You Should Stop Pursuing Happiness

Listen to the podcast of this blog post by clicking the player below. If you don't see the player, click,

It’s in the United States Declaration of Independence:

“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.”

When driving from Maryland into Pennsylvania on Interstate 83, the “Welcome to Pennsylvania” sign tells us to, “Pursue Your Happiness”, presumably in Pennsylvania. 

So why do I suggest you stop pursuing happiness?

The Big Idea - Pursuing Happiness Guarantees You Won’t Be Happy

The Big Idea for this episode is the one sure way to guarantee you never experience happiness is to pursue happiness. Why? Because happiness is an inside job. It’s a felt sense, a knowing, that goes deep into our soul when our actions align with our deepest values. 

If you ask people when will they be happy, typical responses will be something like, 

  • “When I earn $10,000 more a year, then I’ll be happy”; 
  • “When I find that special someone to ‘make me happy’, then I’ll be happy”; “When I’m cured of this medical condition and I’m free of pain, then I’ll be happy”; 
  • “When I get that new luxury car, I’ll be happy”. 
  • “When my team wins the championship! I will be so happy!”

All of these answers point in the same direction: Happiness can only be found, “out there”. Something in my external world needs to change before I can be happy. I must acquire some object, some person, or achieve some goal before I’ll be happy. 

But the reality is achieving these kinds of goals or outcomes provides only fleeting elation. They truly don’t create longterm happiness.

What Great Thinkers Say About Happiness

What advice has been offered by great thinkers? Surely, they know the happiness secret.

Cicero tells us, “Happiness consists of tranquility of mind”.

Aristotle says, “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life.  The whole aim and end of human existence”. 

Abraham Lincoln offers a highly practical take on the subject: "Folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be”. 

What Science Says About Happiness

What does science, particularly Positive Psychology research tell us about happiness?

Dr. Mark K. Setton, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, created a website dedicated to exploring happiness. That website, 

In the “Science of Happiness” section, Dr. Setton penned a short, but powerful summary of what scientific research tells us about happiness. In his, “7 Habits of Happy People”, we learn:

  • “Relationships: Express your heart. People who have one or more close friendships are happier.”
  • “Acts of Kindness: “Cultivate kindness. People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed.”
  • “Exercise and Physical Wellbeing: Keep moving and eat well. Regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression."
  • “Flow: Find your flow. If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called ‘flow.’
  • “Spiritual Engagement and Meaning: “Studies demonstrate a close link between spiritual and religious practice and happiness.” 
  • “Strengths and Virtues: Discover and use your strengths. Studies by experts such as Martin Seligman in the new field of Positive Psychology show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths and virtues and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.”
  • “Positive Mindset: Optimism, Mindfulness, and Gratitude: Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope. Of all the areas studied in the relatively young field of positive psychology, gratitude has perhaps received the most attention. Grateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging, and lower incidence of depression and stress.”

What Do These Habits Have in Common?

What do these habits have in common? There are no “things”, no physical objects, no outside pursuits. There is nothing “out there” to acquire, own, or covet. All of these habits relate to habits of mind and heart. 

Happiness is a state of being that can’t be pursued. It is the result of applying one or more of these habits in your everyday life.

Recall Abraham Lincoln’s observation, “Folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be”. This relates to Habit Number 7, Having a positive mindset of optimism, mindfulness, and gratitude. 

Above all, I recommend committing to the idea that happiness is truly an inside job and will grow as you apply the 7 happiness habits.

What’s Next?

Please visit us at for more positive, uplifting podcasts and videos. You can subscribe to the, “Mind Over Stress” show through your IOS iPhone or iPad, and you can also subscribe on your Android phone or tablet. 

Stephen Carter

Stress Solutions, LLC | | Podcast Episodes: