The Pursuit of Happiness

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Words to live by. We have a fair idea about life, not much understanding of what liberty means, especially the duties that arise because of it, and nearly nothing about pursuing happiness.

I think if the happiness idea was carried out well, life and liberty would follow.

Where do we begin?

Fifteen years ago, I read an intriguing book. “Stumbling On Happiness” by Harvard psychology professor, Dan Gilbert.

If I may be so bold as to offer a short precis of a very complex work by a brilliant author, this would be it.

We cannot be happy by pursuing happiness but instead must stumble upon it. The reason – we have weak cognitive skills that might help us in the pursuit.

The book will address those defects and offer methods to deal with them.

A quicker fix

Not everyone enjoys reading and not everyone will buy the book. As an alternative A TEDTalk by Dr. Gilbert will go deeper than my precis. You can see it here. “The Surprising Science of Happiness.” Twenty minutes well spent.

Once you get the Dan Gilbert idea, you will find a half dozen or so more talks to watch. They deal with happiness, but also decision making. We are not especially good at that either.

The idea is not new

An idea from American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is enarly 175 years old and shows the idea that “pursuing” happiness may in fact be futile.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which  when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” 

More recently, a hundred years ago, Carl Jung offered advice too.

“Nobody can achieve happiness through preconceived ideas, one should rather call it a gift of the gods. It comes and goes, and what has made you happy once does not necessarily do so at another time.”

“The more you deliberately seek happiness the more sure you are not to find it. It is therefore far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity”

As you can see, stumbling on happiness may be the only way we find it.

An option

As I have grown older, i Have found gratitude to be a leader to happiness. The difference between the pursuit and gratitude is that gratitude can be found all around us. We need only notice it and appreciate it, when we do.

Rather like Harold Hook’s idea “Diamonds in your own back yard.”

The takeaway

Maybe happiness has come to you already but you have been so busy pursuing it, you didn’t notice. Take a look around.

Watch the TedTalk and then decide if you should invest in the book. The book is deeper, but I will be amazed if you get nothing from it.

Happiness is easier if you know what it is and where it might be.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com 

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