The More You Pursue Happiness, the Further You May Get Away From It

Author

Patrick Allan

September 24, 2014

So many of us constantly search for the things that will finally make us happy, but sometimes the key is to stop trying so hard.

Immanuel Kant, an influential German philosopher of the 18th century, had a simple, yet reasonable perspective when it came to pursuing happiness:

The more a cultivated reason gives itself over to the aim of enjoying life and happiness, the further the human being falls short of true contentment.

Kant believed that people ran in circles hoping to “find” happiness, when contentment simply gets farther and farther away when we chase it. Steven Mazie at weblog Big Think applies the thought to our modern lives:

It’s a terrible irony: the more effort you expend trying to be happy, the more elusive your goal becomes. Some introspection will likely confirm this phenomenon. How many times have your best-laid plans translated into a less-than-perfect vacation? Did that 3D television set you’ve been pining for (or the Jaguar, or the raise) really make you happier? Even lottery winners often suffer more post-jackpot than they did back when they were average Joes and Janes dreaming of hitting it big. For many, that dream becomes a nightmare. So what is a happiness-seeking soul to do? Kant’s answer may seem implausible, but it’s good advice: give up the search. Orienting your life toward goods or goals that seem to promise happiness is bound to fail.

Material goods—and more often experiences—can translate to happiness for some people, but the key here is that the focus of your life shouldn’t be a constant search to find things that make you happy. Look around you, enjoy the moment, and maybe happiness will come to you easier than you think.

Kant’s Foolproof Recipe for Happiness | Big Think

Photo by Johns Hopkins.

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