Why Happiness isn’t a Goal


As I developed an understanding of the world as a freshman, I began to wonder what my, or anyone’s purpose on Earth was, concluding that it was happiness. I made it a stationary goal to be happy, as if once I achieved this, I have found the world’s eternal truth. My twitter profile brimmed with stock phrases such as “Life is too short to be anything but happy” and “Don’t worry, be happy.” Spending the majority of high school chasing what seemed to be the single purpose of life, I was thoroughly disappointed time and time again when was faced with the temporary nature of the condition I sought. I was afraid I was doing something wrong, as being happy 100 percent of the time marked itself unattainable. It took me years to realize that my reasoning was marginally flawed.

One day senior year, while scrolling through the archives of my favorite blog, I happened upon a quote by Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life, in which he attacked the idea of happiness. He noted that instead of the latter, “Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are.” After reading the quote, I was instantly relieved. Upon realizing the crippled nature of my pursuit, I began to think the same thing, yet hadn’t stumbled across the words to form my thoughts until that moment.

Mackay’s quote goes on to read “I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

The point of life is not solely reflected in one’s ability to achieve happiness; rather, it is exhibited one’s ability to achieve every emotion in existence. If happiness were a default, there would be nothing to compare it to, thus lessening the impact of when it actually strikes. It isn’t a bad condition, it’s just not one to endlessly strive for. My AP English Literature teacher, Mrs. Worthington, has incessantly told her students to “find the beauty in the ugly,” and I think that now I know what she means. Life is incredibly difficult, but the difficulties and seeming misfortunes cooperate to shape the wholesome nature of us as human beings. This is the actualization that my freshman self was lacking.

My advice to incoming seniors, or anyone, would be to set aside the arbitrary pursuit of happiness and instead focus on the wholeness of yourself, the full experience of life. When a seeming hardship confronts you, do not think about the happiness of which you are missing out on. Instead, think of the experience you are gaining by its confrontation.