In Life, Pursue Meaning instead of Happiness

I spend a lot of time pursuing happiness and I think many others do as well.  So imagine my interest when I came across this article on how we’re doing it all wrong.  

Apparently the pursuit of happiness actually makes you less happy. Studies show that people who actively make it a goal actually score themselves as less happy than those who don’t even think about it. The theory then is put forth that if a person pursues meaning instead, while there may be some hardships in the present moment, overall they report more well-being in life, and that well-being is more lasting.

The article goes on to make it clear what they mean by happiness and what they mean by meaning. People pursuing happiness were defined as people who tended to avoid difficult or taxing entanglements, described themselves as relatively self-oriented, and spent more time thinking about how they felt in the moment. They pursued hedonistic pursuits like sleeping in, playing games, and eating candy. People pursuing meaning were those who were connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be family, your work, nature, or God. These people engage in activities like forgiving a friend, taking care of children, and helping or cheering up another person, thinking about the past, present and future.

Okay so how to apply this to our lives?


Instead of chasing things that make us feel good in the moment due to a short term high, you should chase parts of life that have:

  • Purpose — your activity choice should help you feel directed and motivated by valued life goals
  • Comprehension — the ability to understand and make sense of your life experiences and weave them into a coherent whole.  Basically the activity should speak directly to who you are and be congruent with what you stand for
  • Mattering — the belief that your existence is significant and valued.  It should give you purpose and worth.

Did you notice that there isn’t really anything you can buy at a store that gives you these things?  Sure, there are things that can HELP… for example, buying a board game that you and your friends all bond with each other over is probably a purchase that contributes to a meaningful life.  But a lot of the things we end up chasing through our lives don’t make even a lick of difference to these big three.

Does this stuff make you consider maybe changing your approach to life?  It has for me a bit; it gives me confidence that I am on path that’s very much worth pursuing, and should make it easier to resist the things that are pulling me off of it at any given moment.  It helps me strengthen my mindset and should <a href=””>aid my self-control.</a>

Hope this helps and finds you well,

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