Don’t Chase Happiness, Chase This Instead

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Helena Lopes / Unsplash

This isn’t a motivation paper. It’s not a rah rah type of speech. It’s not one filled with the unending positivity that motivational coaches seem to spout and inspire you for a few moments. I’ve read and heard a majority of those and they never helped that much, at least not long term.

There is a realization I had one night, but really one I’ve had many times. One that I always try to distract myself from because it’s easier, it’s more pleasurable. It makes me happier briefly, at least in the moment.

But first things first, let me tell you a little story.

I think the clearest thinking happens late at night with no distractions, solitary and reflective.

I’ve always had what you could call borderline addictions. I wouldn’t call them addictions right now, but they likely were at certain times in my life. I’ve always used porn, sex, dating, even relationships as a way to make myself happier. To distract myself. You could say in many ways that I was actually very selfish, because it was all about what I needed and I was using even relationships as a way to meet my needs.

The obsessiveness in distracting myself and having fun were all an escape for me. To get away from the feeling that I wasn’t getting the most out of myself. Not living up to my potential. I knew I wanted to live at my edge, yet I distracted and procrastinated.

You hear all the time about the shortness of life. All you have to do to find the truth in that is talk to the elderly. They’ll tell you how fast it flies by and how they regret not living it to the fullest. They regret getting bogged down in the insignificant parts of life and they wished they focused more on the things that mattered.

Yet, many times, I’ve felt that I waste days. As if life is going to go on forever.

The easy thing would be to go back to my addictions. If I was chasing happiness like I always thought I was then, I would do that.

I would go and distract myself and find the next high. I’d Wait for the next time I travel, have sex, go on a date, or have a girlfriend. Even going on social media or something else on my phone when I have free time, so I don’t reflect and question my life too much. T

It would be easy to do that again, it’s the path of least resistance. know that because I did it for so long and still have days that I do that. I’m far from perfect.

The difference today is that I know that chasing happiness is just a short term emotion, it’s hedonistic in many ways.

If you don’t stop and think too much and just go from high to next high then you won’t have many doubts, you won’t question too much because everything feels great.

Until it stops.

For me this “stop” was more than a year ago. When I tried to use the same things to make me feel happier and better, it just didn’t have the same effect like it used to.

I was pretty depressed at this point, as low as I’d ever felt that I could remember. I didn’t really see the point of anything, it all seemed so meaningless. That thinking didn’t help my depression and it’s easy to spiral that way.

Slowly I got myself out of it (thank you therapy).

By the way, what they don’t tell you about therapy is that it gets worse before it gets better. It’s far from an instant fix. Originally I thought I’d go there and ask her to fix me. Then boom, like magic, I’d be all good.

It’s not like that. At all. Like anything in life you have to go through some darkness before you get to the light.

Eventually you do start feeling better, much better. And, since I sometimes(understatement of the year) have an obsessive personality, therapy alone wasn’t enough for me. I also had to start reading every psychology book I could find and read about pleasant topics like childhood trauma, shame, PTSD, and these types of light topics. Every. Single. Night.

Like I said, slightly obsessive.

This obsession tremendously helped me speed up and intensify the effects of therapy, which was uncomfortable at first but ultimately the best choice I ever made.

I’ve realized that the goal isn’t just to be happy. The pursuit of this surface level happiness is what got me in trouble.

The goal is to live a fulfilling life.

There’s no cookie cutter way to achieve that. It needs to be a fulfilling life for YOU, not anyone else. Every single person is different in that way. Yet, we try so hard in our society to tell people how they should live their life, how they should be successful, and even what defines success.

Success is very subjective, as it should be.

Do I have it all figured out now? Hell no. I don’t think “figuring it out” ever happens.

I thought I had it figured out, right up until my depression.

I believe the striving is what’s important. The trying to figure it out. I don’t think it’s a journey that’s ever supposed to end.

Enjoying that journey is what’s important.

But, since I’m writing this, I’m going to give you my take on what I think is a fulfilling life, at least for me. Maybe it helps you too, maybe it doesn’t.

Mine is this: I don’t want a happy life. I want a fulfilling one.

I want the good, the bad, and everything in between. Everything that makes life full. I want to always be grateful for what I have now, while always striving to be a better person in the future. I want to be patient and make choices that are good for me and my family in the long term, while also not wasting time in the present. And I want to give love without worrying about what I’m receiving in return.

I think that wouldn’t be a bad way to live my life. Not at all.

David Deida sums it up:

“Stop waiting. Feel everything. Love achingly. Give Impeccably. Let Go.”

I think if I always strive to live my life this way then I will have lived a fulfilling life. One that I would be proud of. I think that’s all any of us can do. Strive for better. Live a fulfilling life. TC mark

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