“Do what makes you happy.”
In life, we hear this phrase a lot. We are told to pursue and chase the things that will make us happy. Follow our dreams, and in turn, we will find happiness. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with pursuing happiness, so long as your means for achieving happiness do not infringe upon the ability of others to be happy.
But I wonder if sometimes we take it too far? What if sometimes we chase happiness so much that we have developed this false sense of what it means to be happy?
What I mean is that in pursuing this thing that we expect to make us happy, we expect that happiness to be whole, complete, and satisfying. Often, we believe that success corresponds to happiness. We pursue the ‘perfect’ job, relationship, grades, house.. you get the idea. But what really happens?
Well, we live in a far from perfect world, so this perfect happiness we expect is anything but that. There’s still this void left behind. We feel happy, but that feeling eventually fades.
For example, imagine you’ve saved up for a new car, your dream car, and finally get there. You’ve bought it, and that new-car smell and shiny paint job make you giddy. But someday, that smell will fade and scratches will appear. Suddenly, that happiness dissipates.
So what if there is something more? What if there is more than just chasing what makes you happy?
There’s a distinct difference between feeling happy and feeling fulfilled. Happiness is a more temporary, superficial emotion, one that can come and go in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. Meanwhile, fulfillment is something that you may not feel in the moment, but looking back on a day or week, you can say to yourself, “Wow, that was a really worthwhile day.” Those moments are when that warm feeling of meaning kicks in; that feeling which transcends happiness.
Perhaps rather than pursuing happiness, we should be pursuing meaning.
The definition of ‘meaning’ in this context is: important or worthwhile quality; purpose.
See, fulfillment doesn’t just come from getting what we want. Fulfillment, especially through meaning, comes from a sense of belonging and feeling purpose.
Belonging and purpose can each come in a variety of ways. Be it relationships, roles on teams or in work, or even just feeling like you’re in the right place at the right time. Ultimately though, I think the most direct sense of both of these, and of meaning in general, can come from no place but God.
To first take a step back and realize that we are not God’s accidents. Not once has God breathed life into this world and said, “Whoops, that one was a mistake.” Our Father has something amazing in store for all of us. That’s why when we pursue God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul, we can find that meaning; we can find that purpose that He created us for.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
So while it is alright to chase after happiness, we must also focus on chasing meaning. In my opinion, that starts with just looking for God’s presence in everything we do. One thing that I’ve always found helpful in finding and understanding meaning is to help others with something. Sometimes all it takes is very small steps in that direction, and God begins to start revealing the purpose to us.
I invite you to think of some ways that you can shift from a place of chasing happiness to chasing meaning and following God.
To God be the Glory.