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Personal development: Our never-ending search for happiness December 26, 2017

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Concept of personal development.
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It is interesting to note that the United States’ Declaration of Independence did not declare “happiness” to be an unalienable right, but rather “the pursuit” of happiness; so the government, if not encouraging of, at least should not be placing obstacles in the path of the individual trying to achieve happiness.

In the case of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the word happiness was likely to mean generally the right of the individual to work, without interference, at achieving their goals and reaching a state of relative fulfilment in their life.

Certainly these days there is a strong effort in the self-actualization movement to seek happiness, with an abundance of expert advice on achieving happiness, such as Richard Carlson’s helpful book, You Can Be Happy No Matter What.

Contributing to the elusiveness of the search for happiness is how each of us defines happiness; and this can be very personal – happiness is not an emotional commodity with a cookie-cutter definition.

Consider these synonyms for happiness: joyfulness, bliss, rapture, gladness, elation, ecstasy, contentment, satisfaction, well-being.

It is impossible to have a life totally free from any pain, sadness, or suffering so, for most of us, it is not always possible to be constantly elated or joyful.

The philosopher and social thinker Eric Hoffer, who had a tough life, has a rather bleak assessment of the possibility of happiness within the human condition, perhaps influenced by his own personal background:

“It is the testimony of the ages that there is little happiness – least of all when get what we want. Many outstanding persons who reviewed their lives in old age found that all their happy moments did not add up to a full day.” (1)

But perhaps Hoffer was defining happiness as being bliss or ecstasy, rather than satisfaction, or well-being.

Personally I think happiness can be as simple as doing things we really enjoy doing while also being free from emotional pain.

(1) Eric Hoffer, in his autobiographical book Truth Imagined

—Dennis Mellersh