Every piece of helpful advice you receive should come from someone who has been in your shoes. I would never claim to be an expert on something as subjective as the purpose of life and where happiness fits into it, but if I know anything about you and I, I’m sure you will see a bit of yourself in the story I’m about to tell.
When I moved to New York City in January 2019, I was fresh from a breakup with my first love and undergoing a quarter life crisis (I know what you’re thinking, classic rite of passage). I had recently graduated college, and thought I knew what life was supposed to look like after walking across that stage. Boy, was I wrong.
All I knew was that pursuing happiness was supposed to be my top priority; but despite all I had to be grateful for, I felt that I wasn’t on the right path to getting there. I couldn’t even put my finger on it. It got to the point where I was willing to throw away everything to get to the bottom of why I wasn’t as happy as the world told me I needed to be.
When I arrived in Manhattan with all my bags and settled in for a cold winter, with no friends and no idea what I was doing, I was devastated. All I could do was wish for my old life back and cry myself to sleep. I had the vision to turn things upside down to get happy.
So why was I suddenly inconsolable?
A Powerful Lesson in Chasing Happiness
Over the next year, my brain tried to understand what my heart knew to be true: I had believed the lie that getting there was more important than being here. By refusing to grant myself permission to be happy until the future arrived, I was bound to the past and unable to access joy in the present.
It’s no surprise why I made the choices I did. I had been told the same thing all my life…
For most of our lives, our culture has told us that happiness is the answer to our problems. It’s printed the fallacy across the front cover of every magazine and baked it into every storyline, sneaking the fairytales of our childhood into the adult narrative of how we ought to live our lives.
I call this the “happiness promise,” and it’s being made all the time. I would never claim that happiness is a bad thing—it’s a gift from the universe wrapped in hope, a thing that turns giving up into a sign to keep going, it’s a feeling…
But it’s just a feeling!
Happiness is a temporary state of mind that often comes out of unexpected circumstances and accidents we can’t control. So instead of chasing it, let’s hold it in our hands until it runs away, and taps us on the shoulder just when we need it again. If we make happiness the goal for our lives, we will never quite “get there.” So instead… let’s be here.
What is a worthy goal for life?
Wholeness. The best moments of our lives are waiting to burst when we pursue wholeness over happiness. It’s right here, completely and utterly within reach. If we integrate wellness practices into our routine, we will unlock the blissful state of okayness and discover the magic of being well. Our culture doesn’t encourage us to find ways to be whole, but our souls are hungry for it.
What keeps us from experiencing wholeness is the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. We are not broken.
Nothing’s wrong. We weren’t supposed to be something, and then proven that we didn’t live up to it. By reframing our narrative and telling ourselves beautiful stories, we will have faith in the evolving present and create the rich and powerful meaning we are so desperately searching for.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably tempted to believe that you’ll one day “arrive” at a perfect chapter or destination in life. But the truth is— this is it! You are living the chapter, and you get to decide how it’s narrated.
Believing that we need the perfect city to live in, partner, house, friend group, relationship, car, house, etc keeps us from recognizing the wonders of the present moment. And nothing should hold us back from the abundance in our lap.
It’s just too good.
Arriving is an empty promise, but choosing to rise above the temptation to fixate on an ideal future preserves the integrity of the present moment. Wherever you are on life’s journey, remember that you are always on the right path, which is teaching you all the ways to find profound joy along the way.
Happiness isn’t going anywhere. It’ll sneak up behind you and give you delicious chills, but only when you stop trying to chase it.