On the search for happiness

As you walk the trail of life you will constantly look up to see the next mountaintop to scale, the next river to ford, or the next plain to cross. There is no end to this quest. There will always be another distant thing at which you are grasping, slightly out of your reach.

Happiness is not a destination. Happiness is a byproduct.

Humans evolved to survive and reproduce, not to be constantly happy. Happiness is the drip meted out to you any time you do something your body deems pleasureful. It is the drug used to stimulate you and condition you to keep seeking those things that allow you to survive and reproduce. If happiness were a destination and you could somehow “find” that one thing then you would perish shortly thereafter. If eating chocolate ice cream brought perpetual happiness then those people who found it would simply stop doing anything else. They would die and eventually the gene for the feeling of perpetual happiness would evolve itself out of human biology.

Happiness should never be a goal. You should not expect nor want to experience it all the time. It is a fleeting feeling, transient, and momentary. As soon as it is gone you will wonder what happened to it. If you become addicted to chasing it then not only will you fail in that quest – you’ll spend your few moments of happiness trying to figure out how to hold on to it, not let it go, or prolong it. Those thoughts will destroy your ability to experience that happiness in the moment. You will be doomed to a life of seeking that which you cannot have by virtue of your fear of losing it or your belief that somehow you should own it forever.

No, happiness is a byproduct of living a life based on your values. Living authentically. Making your own meaning. If your self reflection is clear, your intent pure, and your aim is to do rather than to seek then and only then will you be rewarded with moments of pure happiness.

Release the expectation to be happy all the time and it will find you. Release the need to be happy all the time and it will find you.  When it finds you it will be a surprise and one that you will be able to enjoy in the moment. You will allow it to come and go as it pleases without attempting to hold on. That will make it all the sweeter.

There is no happiness to be found at the top of a mountain, or the other side of a river, or the distant side of a plain. Happiness can be found in each footstep between here and there, if only you weren’t looking for it.

This is the first post in a series that I am going to create that is intended to be advice I would offer my twenty-something self were I able to go back in time and have those conversations.


Kierkegaard – On Madness

It is quite curious: naturally the life of a little insignificant thing is viewed with contempt, and is overlooked by all intelligent people; in return, the little insignificant thing sometimes takes revenge, for when a man goes mad it is almost always over some little insignificant thing.”


Talk Less. Do More.

Talking is usually the spewing forth of thoughts. Most of the time when we are talking we are trying to make sense of some thought or idea. Because we’ve been unable to make sense of this inside our own heads we begin pulling other people into the mix by talking about it. While this can be mildly therapeutic if done sensibly it frequently leads to more thinking and “co-rumination”.

Co-rumination is when your thoughts have led to your own personal rumination and you’ve drawn your friends or family into the rumination with you by talking about it incessantly. Now all of you are ruminating and possibly creating a negative feedback loop where negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts lead to confirmation bias and blah blah blah, more misery.

Many people will probably think I am an idiot for saying not to talk about your problems. After all talking is supposed to make us feel better. The problem is that many times it does not. If you’re going to talk you need to talk to someone who will be forceful with you in getting you out of your head (a good friend) and not someone who will exacerbate the issues by just agreeing with you all the time, “I know right?”

The next time you get the urge to talk to someone about some painful thought of yours just stop, and instead, ask them if they’d like to play a game or take a walk or something else in the physical world. Talk less. Do more.

Think less. Do more.

It’s just that simple. You think too much. You think about thinking, you ruminate, you worry, you obsess, and then you repeat. In it’s lightest form this just results in mild anxiety. For some of us, however, this cycle leads to painful bouts with depression and more serious mental health issues.

You’ve probably found this site because you were thinking. You were asking yourself questions. You were seeking answers. You clicked one link and then another. You typed a question into a Google search box. When it didn’t give you the answers you were looking for you rephrased the question and then submitted it again. You’ve done this over and over and over until you are ridiculously tired of searching. You are now wondering when the searching will stop and the living will start.

Well, I am here to tell you that thinking your way out of a problem you thought your way into is not really the best solution. The best solution is just to DO. Do something, do anything. It’s best to start with smaller things but what you do is really irrelevant. Just the act of doing, of getting out of your head, is more than enough to sweep away your mental demons.

It is my belief, though I am not always capable of following my own advice, that your self help woes can be mostly cured by just doing and doing and more doing. You don’t have to stop thinking (we need to do that after all). You just have to slow down the thinking about thinking and change that to thinking about doing.

Now. I want you to stop reading, turn off your screen, take a few deep breaths, look around the room, bend your knees, stretch your arms, and then come back and read whenever you’ve done that.

Doing is just that easy.

Is suffering our Default mode?


This article from the NY Mag Science of Us summarizes a nice selection of scientific research concerning what our brain likes to default to when it’s host is not engaged in doing something.

From Is the Default Mode of the Brain to Suffer?

When you don’t give its human anything to do, brain areas related to processing emotions, recalling memory, and thinking about what’s to come become quietly active. These self-referential streams of thought are so pervasive that in a formative paper Marcus Raichle, a Washington University neurologist who helped found the field, declared it to be the “the default mode of brain function,” and the constellation of brain areas that carry it out are the default mode network, or DMN. Because when given nothing else to do, the brain defaults to thinking about the person it’s embedded in.

If you’ve ever experienced excessive rumination about the past or future or found yourself spiraling down a hole of thought for some other reason, odds are it’s because your mind is not engaged with doing anything else. It’s default mode of operation is to start thinking of all the ways it needs to plan and protect you and control your future by analyzing your past experience.