The pursuit of happiness can backfire.


Partly because we don't have many guidelines for how to handle misery. And even worse, most information says "Stay away from sour, unhappy, depressed, people."

You ever pray you will not become one of those crotchety types who gets banished from la-la land?

Here's the problem: we don't have control over most situations that are meant to make us happy; nor those that make us feel like crap. Think about moments of happiness that begin to fade when your gorgeous baby can't separate day from night and wails from dusk to dawn. What happens to your happy quotient?

And there are those customers, the vampires (you call them), who are the nastiest, demanding folks who are always attempting to squeeze blood out of a stone. They don't care if you make a profit so long as they get what they want. Being happy then turns to sour thoughts.

Maybe we are looking at happiness from too narrow a lens.

There is a richness of life that goes unexplored if we set our sights on "don't worry, be happy." Think of it this way: if on this planet, we only had day and got rid of night it would get so hot we could not survive. And if we only have night, well we would freeze to death. The sun and the moon are colleagues and work together for our best interests.

Did you ever sit with your spouse or partner who was mouthing off about something they knew nothing about and you decided, at that moment, you absolutely hate him or her? Bet you have, even if you don't like to admit it. Love and hate are often bedfellows we want to dismiss.

And that gorgeous infant, all cuddly and cute who gives you no time for yourself. Well, if hate is too strong a word, find your own. Something like upset, annoyed, frustrated. Deep down its pretty much the same thing.

Seeing the glass half empty or half full comes from a combination of genes and environment. What I teach in our leadership program is that our preferences come from three main sources, family, culture, and crises. Begin to access your views on happiness by taking a deep look at what you have been taught.

This will give you another perspective on what it means to be happy. Here's where you can make your difference. This is where you can begin to observe, understand, and then transform the emotions that hold you captive.

Remember: too much of anything becomes toxic, including oxygen, water, or happy talk.

Take time to watch the 1998 film, Pleasantville starring Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon. It's a look back in time when we thought America was great, wholesome and, of course, happy. It wasn't the rude and dangerous place that many think it has become. This film is meant to make us wake up and see reality from a broader perspective.

Give yourself the time to redefine happiness; when life no longer goes per plan. When the vital colors of the day are sharper because of taking risks, being curious, asking questions and tasting disappointment.

Maybe what includes happiness and misery, the agony, and the ecstasy, is where the real action of life resides.


It's a concept we need to discuss and deepen during this time of constant change. Happiness is too narrow.

Let me know what you think after you've seen this evergreen classic film. Is happiness the end game or is freedom?

Published on: Jan 16, 2017
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