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The problem with the pursuit of happiness

We all want to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with being happy. It’s a wonderful state to be in, and to the degree that we can make choices that result in our happiness, let’s do it!

But when happiness is our ultimate goal, especially the happiness that comes from the fulfillment of our desires, we are at risk of something happening that has the power to instantly take away our coveted happiness. When that happens, we feel like we’re losing, like we’re failing, like something is wrong with our lives.

When we adopt the goal of living for happiness (which is illusive and not consistently sustainable), the perspective through which we see the world is that suffering is to be avoided at all costs. It erroneously leaves us feeling that our lives are not worth living without happiness.

Happiness in life, by nature, is inconsistent because it’s easily influenced by circumstances outside of our control (loss of a job, death of a loved one, bad medical diagnosis, etc.). So if we live for the pursuit of our happiness, we are far more likely to live in fear of any event that threatens it.

The problem of money, power, and expertise

Many of us tend to think that if we have enough money and influence we can buy the expertise we need to “fix” what we think is obstructing our happiness. If that were true, no billionaire or celebrity would ever be sad, depressed, get ill or die. It’s true that money can make us comfortable, but money hasn’t cured cancer and all of the other things in this life that cause much pain and suffering.

Likewise, we passionately defend our political party and its candidates, thinking that if we just vote into office the right person and get the right laws passed that all will be well and we will be happy. But the truth is that politicians can’t legislate happiness or pass laws that prevent all bad things from happening.

Living for the pursuit of purpose

There is another option that does not involve living in fear. It refuses to give life’s power to external events over which we have no control.

When we choose to live a purposeful life, we find meaning in sorrowful events. We see them through a different lens and therefore are able to maintain our bearings. It’s easier to have peace when we search for meaning in every hard situation. We don’t feel like we’re failing. Instead we look for the pathway out of the pain and we mine the lessons from it, which lead us to a deeper fulfillment of our purpose.

While pain and suffering instantly steal our happiness, they do not have the capacity to steal our purpose.

It is true that hard experiences can deter us, distract us, and discourage us, but the capacity that lies within painful events is that which leads to growth. When our focus is on finding meaning in suffering and using that meaning to inform the fulfillment of our purpose, we will not allow painful events to consume us. And we will not waste our pain. (If you doubt this, check out the work of Dr. Lawrence Calhoun on Post Traumatic Stress Growth

We find a deeper meaning in our lives when we make the decision to live for the pursuit of purpose rather than selfishly living in the pursuit of our own happiness. The irony of this decision is that purposeful living is accompanied by peace and joy--and true joy is so much deeper and more sustainable than happiness. Peace and joy accompany us on the journey to find meaning and purpose in our pain. With them, we emerge successfully on the other side, stronger and more resilient, with the wisdom that can only be acquired by going through the fire.

When we choose to live a life of seeking purpose and meaning, we can actually find ourselves grateful for the painful experiences we would have done anything to avoid.

Rhonda Sciortino with a way to not live in fear
Rhonda Sciortino, author, speaker, purpose seeker

Rhonda Sciortino, author of 30 Days To Happiness, 30 Days To Love, Succeed Because Of What You've Been Through, and many more books, is a successful survivor of painful events. She encourages others to see themselves as survivors of whatever they've been through. Rhonda believes that when we find meaning in the painful events of our lives, we are better able to find and fulfill our purpose. To help victims become survivors, she established Successful Survivors Foundation.


Success, purpose and prayer now on Audible!

Here's how to live happy:

Here's how to live loved:

You can create a successful life because of all you've been through:

Find your purpose and live with joy:

This podcast will help you find and live your purpose and enjoy the peace and joy that accompanies it. Subscribe now and share this with a friend. Find Your Purpose Now is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Iheartradio, Amazon music, Overcast, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, and right here at

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