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The problem with pursuing happiness

Posted in the following categories: Motivation, Personal Development

There’s a whole industry dedicated to making people feel happy.

Just follow the three principles of this, or the five secrets to that, and you’ll be happier.

Here’s the problem: In the most important moments of my life, I didn’t feel happy. I felt anxious about the path ahead. I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel ready enough. I felt heavy—intimidated by a load that I was sure I couldn’t carry.

Yet, I still did the thing.

Happiness came only after a wave of other emotions washed through me (and knocked me around a bunch).

If you pursue only happiness, you won’t ever leave your comfort zone. Because stepping outside your comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. You’ll keep dragging yourself into the same predictable tomorrow by reliving yesterday.

Instead of chasing happiness, follow your curiosity. What do you find interesting? Say yes to the tiny internal clues nagging you to learn more about botany, take welding classes, or pick up that sewing hobby you abandoned. The things that pique your curiosity aren’t random. They will point you to where you need to go.

Also consider your life’s purpose. What is your “why”? Why are you here? If you were writing your own obituary describing your life, what would it say? If you were lying on your deathbed, what would you regret not doing?

Your life’s purpose is often connected to your first principles. If you missed last week’s post on that subject, check it out here and consider how you can use your first principles to express yourself.

The North Star, Polaris, is known for being fixed. But it’s not. Like all other objects in the sky, it moves—so much so that in about 2,000 years it’ll no longer be the North Star. (Shocking, I know!).

What you want from your life can also change as the world changes around you and as you change as a person.

In fact, pursuing your curiosity will inevitably change you, by taking you off the path you’ve followed in the past and introducing you to new ways of being in the world. As long as you choose it intentionally, there’s nothing wrong with changing your direction.

There’ll always be a reason to keep coloring inside the lines you’ve drawn for yourself. It’ll be agonizing to leave behind what feels comfortable to pursue what’s uncomfortable—and to step into the unknown, where all things that never existed are created.

But, as Zora Neale Hurston writes, “there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”

What will your story say?

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