Never Pursue Happiness

by Jake Wiskerchen

Happiness is not to be pursued, because like all emotions, it is fleeting. Instead seek to be present in the moment and choose to appreciate that. Thereafter every moment will be a source of joy and your happiness will be unending because moments are in constant supply.
- Jake Wiskerchen

Yes, I opened this article with my own quote. After all, I said it, so of course I would think it is good enough to cite in an article – especially my own article!

In journalism school they taught us never to quote ourselves in our pieces but I figured that this is neither a) journalism class, nor b) an Associated Press piece. So here I am, self-aggrandizing. (Editor’s note: laughter here is acceptable; I don’t take myself too seriously and neither should you. Ha!)

All kidding aside, the idea here is that to pursue an emotion, which happiness is, will inevitably lead to disappointment (i.e., sadness) because emotion always ends. Every emotion lasts between three and nine seconds in the brain, chemically speaking, because after that, the event that triggered the emotion is over. Therefore, why would we want to chase something so temporary?

Instead, choosing to focus on what we have presently – and I mean right in front of us, however long that may be – and then choosing to find value and meaning in it, can yield the same joy. The only difference is that we take the “pursuit” out of the equation and direct our attention to what we are currently experiencing. With this idea we can find joy literally anytime, anywhere, in any circumstance, rather than seeking it as though it is some far-off thing to be sought.

Furthermore, if we recognize the present joy, we have no need to seek because joy is always going to be there, no matter what; all we have to do is choose to see it. After all, didn’t you find just a little bit of joy in laughing at me when I quoted myself at the beginning? Hopefully you’re at least chuckling again right now at the absurdity of it all (Ha!). Don’t look now, but there’s that present moment happiness…

Certainly we acknowledge that miserable things happen; a tire blows out, a loved one dies, a child hurts himself. However, that does not mean that those things need to plague us indefinitely or interrupt our ability to find meaning, purpose, and peace, even during those unpleasant moments. In the midst of life’s storms is often the place where happiness can most easily be found because all unnecessary distractions are stripped away, leaving us with what and whom we truly need and, therefore, enjoy. 

Just for the next hour I invite you to be in the present moment and, in each moment, find something to appreciate and be happy about. Do that for every moment and do not be troubled by past woes or future worries; just be where you are and enjoy it. All of it. Moment by moment. Until the next moment comes. And then, enjoy that one too.*

*Repeat as necessary until consistently happy