How much happiness is enough?

Jan 10, 2015 by

“Your life is never not this moment.”

– Unknown


          On Wednesday night, while waiting to meet one of my friends at Starbucks, a title featured on the cover of Glamour magazine caught my eye. After reading the corresponding article, I noticed another article beside it titled Can We Stop Trying to Be Happy All the Time? With that heading, Jane Buckingham had my immediate attention. In her brief piece, she questions, “How much happiness is enough?” To illustrate her opinion on the matter, I’ll let Jane speak for herself:

These days, everyone seems to be walking around, saying, “Just do what makes you happy.” That mantra is supposed to be this great gift, but in fact it can be a total curse. Consider this: It used to be you needed a job that provided for you and your family; now you need a job that fulfills you every day. You used to search for a good partner who had flaws you could live with. Now you need to find your soul mate, with whom you want to have sex all the time. The truth is sometimes work is, well, work. Sometimes the guy snores. Basically, we’re seeking an unattainable level of happiness that is impossible to find.

          In my opinion, “just do what makes you happy” is the best mantra you could live by. Happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal. It looks different to each of us, but we’re all striving to be and stay happy, making “just do what makes you happy” great advice. You could list many reasons why it’s not: because money, because responsibilities, because commitments, because blah, blah, blah.


          There is only one reason to not just do what makes you happy, and that one reason is you. You limit yourself. Your life restrictions are self-created and reside within your own head; therefore, you can choose to perceive life without them. Your ceilings are built by fear. Do not cap yourself because you’re afraid. Just do what makes you happy. If you aren’t living for happiness, what are you living for? The happier you feel, the better. There is no such thing as too much happiness.

          That said, I do agree with Jane that sometimes we seek the unattainable. Too often, happiness is assessed based on external factors when, really, happiness is generated internally through acknowledgement and confidence that you already have what you need to make yourself happy. Thus, rather than an issue of too much happiness, I think the concern is more so one of too little appreciation. I think the point is that we don’t always have to be striving for better. Continually doing so is rooted in perfectionism, which is a cause of unhappiness due to ongoing lack of satisfaction with oneself and one’s life. Constantly expecting better of yourself is defeating, because it insinuates that now is never good enough. Although ambition fuels enthusiasm and excitement, it’s important to care as much – if not more – about cultivating now as you care about driving your future, because you are always inhabiting the present.

          In further contemplation of the appropriate amount of happiness, Jane questioned, “Are we supposed to be ecstatic all the time?” She then stated the opinion, “It’s a selfish and empty goal to some degree . . .” The perspective that to be happy is to feel fulfilled “all the time” in all aspects of our lives can quickly lead to disappointment. Happiness is not being happy all the time. Happiness is focusing on the positives and adapting to the negatives. Not all parts of our lives have to be “happy” at once in order for us to be wholly happy. Fortunately, I think people know that. I think people understand that happiness is relative to sadness, and the two are not mutually exclusive. Happiness and sadness coexist, and I think that’s opportune. I think it’s empowering that you can be sad or angry or stressed about something while still maintaining an overall happy life. Now, regarding that “selfish and empty” bit, let’s get one thing straight: It is never selfish to put your own happiness first. It is your responsibility.

Happiness Tip: Just do what makes you happy.

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