Happiness Cannot Be Described, But Can It Be Pursued?

Happiness Cannot Be Described, But Can it Be Pursued_ worklifefeed

Some think it is time to stop pursuing happiness, and I wonder why? I would not concede that it is because happiness cannot be described or because it is unattainable. Even if it is a Utopian pursuit, it might just be possible that the cost of trying to get it, might be paid off by any benefit that may be inherent in the exercise.

Illustration by James Melaugh

Like many teenagers, I was once plagued with angst and dissatisfaction. These were feelings that my parents often met with bemusement rather than sympathy. They were already in their 50s. And, having grown up in postwar Britain, they struggled to understand the sources of my discontentment at the turn of the 21st century.

“The problem with your generation is that you always expect to be happy,” my mother once said. I was baffled. Surely happiness was the purpose of living, and we should strive to achieve it at every opportunity. I simply wasn’t prepared to accept my melancholy as something that was beyond my control.

The above last two paragraphs were by David Robson, in “Why it’s time to stop pursuing happiness,” Act 1, Scene 1.

“The constant desire to feel happier can make people feel more lonely. This can make us become so absorbed in our own wellbeing, we forget the people around us.”

Opening The Blockade to Happiness

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade, and travel boycott on Qatar in June 2017. The group accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” and having what they deemed, a too close a tie with Iran.

The Saudi-led coalition had alleged that Qatar violated a 2014 agreement with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is a member.

Qatar repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.

However, in the week of 5th January 2021, all of that changed. The “blockade to happiness” – the borders – were opened. And for the first time in more than 3 years, Qataris drove across the land border into Saudi Arabia on 9th Saturday. At least 70 vehicles passed through the crossing into the Kingdom on the first day and 20 travel in the other direction.

While the “de-escalation” of the crisis may not have addressed the core disagreements between Riyadh and Doha, it provides some useful lessons. Psychologists analyzing those who crossed the border between Saudi Arabia and Doha may still insist that happiness cannot be described. But those who had the “happy” experience, knew what they felt.

Why It’s Time to Stop Pursuing Happiness

David Robson in the Guardian Newspaper article titled, “why it’s time to stop pursuing happiness” provided different perspectives on the subject. But different twists and conclusions can also be shaped by those perspectives.

Photograph: solidcolours/Getty Images/iStockphoto
  • Avoid paying constant attention to your mood so you do not miss out on enjoying everyday pleasures.
  • Don’t have such a high standard for achieving happiness, that you do not appreciate the small and simple things that are really meaningful in your life.
  • If you really want to succeed, you’d do far better to engage in “mental contrasting.” This involves combining your fantasies of success with a deliberate analysis of the obstacles in your path, and the frustrations you are likely to face.
  • Keep a “gratitude journal” to regularly count your blessings and increase your overall wellbeing. But not like a chore, or in overdose quantity. Rather, it should be something you actually enjoy doing.
  • Frequently re-assess and reset your expectations. Accept that no matter how hard you try, feelings of frustration and unhappiness will appear from time to time. And actually, in reality, certain negative feelings can serve a useful purpose.

If happiness cannot be described because the outcome is always personal, the acts to getting there can be described. Ultimately, you might adopt the old adage “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and be unsurprised by everything in between”. Ease the pressure off yourself, and you may just find that contentment arrives when you’re least expecting it.


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