Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what the Declaration of Independence designated as ”inalienable rights.”
Somehow, over the past 200 plus years, people have taken this to mean that they have the right to expect happiness in life.
As Malcolm Muggeridge, a 20th century British journalist and satirist, said, “There is something ridiculous and even quite indecent in an individual claiming to be happy… The pursuit of happiness… is without any question the most [foolish] which could possibly be undertaken. This lamentable phrase “the pursuit of happiness” is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world.”
Ironically, the higher your expectations for happiness, the more likely you are to be disappointed, and less likely to be happy! You’ve met that individual who believes he or she deserves to be taken care of or made happy, whether that applies to government funding, parental support, or a significant other. These people are the most miserable in the world, because no person or entity is going to meet their impossible expectations, nor should they.
The key to happiness may be in lowering expectations and not pursuing it at all. I know that most of my frustrations in life come from things not happening the way I think they should. Children are not supposed to get sick. Buttons are not supposed to come off when you’re getting dressed. Debit cards are not supposed to get lost. Young people are not supposed to die.
The reality of life is that sometimes stuff happens. In fact, in most people’s lives, a lot of stuff happens on a daily basis. As my dad reminded me numerous times, “Life’s not fair.” When you understand that life’s not meant to be happy all the time, you can take the moments of life as they come, enjoying what is good, and embracing sorrow, frustration, and fear as an opportunity to grow and to encourage others along life’s journey.
I choose not to pursue happiness as an ultimate goal. I choose to discover happiness in life’s precious treasures along the way.