“I just want to be happy”

From Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning“:

A forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes… [Happiness] is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.

Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.  One must have a reason “to be happy.”  Once the reason is found, however, one becomes automatically happy… A human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy.

I’ve heard the phrase “I just want to be happy” too many times from some of my closest friends.  There are two obvious problems with this sentiment.  One, as Frankl points out, is that happiness is a side-effect; it’s not the goal.  Two, “happiness” is not something you can measure.  It’s a subjective feeling, so everyone’s recipe for happiness will vary.  It can be attained through something as simple as having a glass of water on a hot day, or by something extravagant like skydiving.  Two completely different actions that produce the same emotion, albeit on a very wide spectrum.

Wanting happiness is like wanting laughter.  You can’t force it, it has to be caused by something (like a joke).

So focus on finding a cause that will bring out your happiness all on its own.

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