The Pursuit Of Happiness

A Silly Notion?


Charles Percy Snow

"The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase:
if you pursue happiness you'll never find it"
.

C P Snow, English scientist and novelist (1905-1980)

And Baron Snow is, of course, quite right - that is, if you interpret the expression quite literally.

However, I'm sure that the term (as embodied in the United States Declaration of Independence, as one of the inalienable human rights - life liberty pursuit of happiness), really means the right to experience happiness, not to the right to chase after it.

Nevertheless, I do agree that this is an unfortunately inappropriate way of expressing what the founding fathers of the USA were probably intending to convey.

What others say

Free e-book with your new (free) subscription to the Happiness Hub monthly e-zineI've done some of my own quick informal research on the term, the pursuit of happiness, and what I've found tends to support what I had felt all along - that there are some repeated themes running through all the writings about this whole question of finding happiness.

Theme One: Where can happiness be found?

Here are the broad ideas people seem to have about where happiness can be found.

  • Happiness comes from making others happy.
  • Happiness comes from achievement.
  • Happiness comes from within.
  • Happiness is somewhere in the future and we must strive to reach it.
  • Happiness comes from happy relationships.

Theme Two: How can one be happy

And here are some ideas people have about how to be happy.

  • Be positive.
  • Be grateful.
  • Smile often.
  • Pursue activities that make you happy.
  • Make others happy.
  • Spend time with family and friends.

How I humbly disagree with several of the above

Quite honestly, much of that sounds like a load of nonsense to me. It sounds like trying to come up with some ways to be successful in the so-called pursuit of happiness - like looking for a shortcut to happiness.

The problem is that these suggestions are actually the results of being happy, not a means to become happy. It's like saying: to be a senior manager you need a large office with a big desk, a personal assistant, some pot plants, telephones, a computer and the like.

That's not how it works. Those are what one sees when a person is already a senior manager.

Likewise, if one is already experiencing happiness, then one spontaneously has less stress, feels appreciative, smiles often, and happily engages in activities that support the experience of more happiness.

And one naturally exudes happiness and helpfulness that rubs off onto others; and one enjoys spending time with friends and family.

These are all the by-products of feeling happy, not the causes.

Happiness cannot be pursued, end of story

My happy granddaughter Leia Hoole admiring a daisy The whole notion of the 'pursuit of happiness' is putting the cart before the horse.

I mean, really, have you ever seen a child consciously trying to find happiness, or applying a bunch of rules to be happy? Of course not! Why? Because they are already naturally happy, that's why.

I agree with those who say that the pursuit of happiness will never be successful, even more so if one continues to seek it where it cannot be found - i.e. outside ourselves, and outside the present moment.


All that is necessary is to unlock the happiness that is already inside us, as part of our very existence.

Moreover, happiness can only be experienced in the present moment, not in some unknown future or place, where it must be pursued and caught.

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Table of Contents in this theme:

The Pursuit of Happiness - A Silly Notion?
Finding Happiness - But Where To Look?
The Secret of Happiness: Happiness Comes From Within
Towards a Definition of Happiness
- How Do YOU Define Happiness?
The Difference Between Happiness And Joy
- How Do YOU Distinguish Between Joy vs Happiness?
The Shortcut To Happiness
Triggering Your Happiness From Within


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