I first ran across the phrase “Happiness takes work” in Dennis Prager’s 1998 book, Happiness is a Serious Problem, and knew I found a nugget of wisdom.
We all want to be happy. Aristotle went so far as to say, ““Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Yet, all too often we look for happiness in all the wrong places. We somehow believe that pursuing fame, wealth, and pleasure will lead to happiness. As Albert Brooks points out in his recent New York Times op-ed, Love People, Not Pleasure, “We look for these things to fill an inner emptiness. They may bring a brief satisfaction, but it never lasts, and it is never enough. And so we crave more.”
Happiness is built on the foundation of a stable lifestyle, but in what Brooks might concur is part of “Mother Nature’s cruel hoax,” an increase in lifestyle beyond that modest level does not generate more happiness. Happiness stems from the quality of our closest relationships, our ability to engage in activities that ignite our passions, and from capturing the ever-present opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.
Pursuing the intrinsic goals that bring us happiness is difficult, especially in a culture that all too often mistakenly defines personal success – and happiness – in terms of wealth, fame, and pleasure. Inside, we know wealth, fame, and pleasure are false idols, yet it is hard to swim against the cultural tide of insanity.
As Brooks notes, it takes “a great deal of reflection and spiritual hard work” to resist these cultural currents and to focus your attention on what will bring you meaning, satisfaction, and a deep feeling of joy. It requires each of us to build into our lives regularly scheduled times to pause and reflect, and to remind ourselves of what really matters to us.
Happiness takes work.