Finding Happiness Indirectly

You can’t get to happiness by pursuing it directly. Happiness is a by-product of being connected to people, ideas, and activities that matter to you. If this is not obvious, try right now to be happy. When that doesn’t work, try harder!

Happiness is a state of being: we don’t “do” happy or fall into happy the way we might fall in love. The chapter on happiness in The Seventh System outlines a few ways to become generally happier by carefully evaluating priorities and noticing how you interpret events. But there simply isn’t any way to increase happiness through effort. Professor Jonathan Haidt, in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, agrees: “Happiness is not something you can find, acquire or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait.”

If you are trying to be happy for its own sake, you might as well give up. Better to devote your attention to whatever and whomever you care about. Good personal relationships are the single most important factor over which you have direct control. It may take time for happiness to emerge. In the long run, if you follow your heart, pursue your interests, and build a network of good friends, you will be rewarded with the good feelings we call happiness.