I love this quotation because it is so simple and yet recognizes that purpose may need to evolve from a focus on self to focus on others.
What might one do in pursuit of happiness –
- Build connections
- Learn new things
- Focus on health and well being
- Set and achieve goals
- Follow passion
- Live mindfully and with compassion
- Do things for others – serve the community
- Any other…
In my coaching conversations, people often struggle to recount when they last felt happy. They dig hard into their lives to find happy moments. Sometimes the best they can do is to share events from far away childhood. When asked, what makes them happy, the usual answers are that they will feel happy if ‘x’ were to happen. ‘X’ could be anything – when they buy a house, get VC funding for their business, their daughter agrees to run their company, etc.
This is because the human mind has a negativity bias. It makes us read the negative news more than the positive, relive unpleasant moments repeatedly and feel the sting of an insult more than the glow of a compliment. This bias played a role in human evolution and helped us survive predators and environmental threats, however, today this bias has limited use. It causes anxiety, anger, and frustration which in turn impact our decision making, relationships, and performance. It can potentially lead to depression and mental illness.
To thrive in life, people need a good dose of happiness to offset the negativity bias. And happiness is created by our actions and by our attention. As Dalai Lama said – The purpose of our life is to seek happiness. Make it your business to pursue happiness by doing things you like to do, whether it is feeding the poor, painting a wall, pumping iron, or meditating.
I also invite you to set an intention to be happy every morning and do a self-check to assess how you are doing against your intention. As you make a habit of it, you will consciously start managing your attention to the happy moments in your day to day life, which ordinarily get lost due to the negativity bias.
I believe that by seeking happiness as our purpose, we can become a society where people are healthy, kind, compassionate, and creative. The pursuit of happiness can make this world a better place than we had inherited.