Happiness should be product of achieving ends and living well

Justin Marinelli

Senior Writer

Recently, I stumbled across The Happiness Project (www.happiness-project.com). While I do believe that happiness in life is a good thing, I can’t help but feel that this sort of thing puts the cart before the horse.

The Happiness Project seeks to actively shape a life in which you can be happy. It seeks to accomplish this objective by guiding you through the process of building a life that will make you happy. You think about what will make you happy and find ways to do it and shape your life.

While I approve of any effort that seeks to get people to actually think about how they want their lives to be, I find the entire effort to be based on a naïve view of happiness. It treats happiness as an end to be accomplished, instead of what it actually is, a symptom of a good life. Treating happiness as an end to be desired in itself is not a good strategy if you seek to achieve permanent happiness. Permanent happiness comes from a few important factors: acting in accordance with virtuous beliefs, having a strong friend group and achieving great things.

The first is a notion put forth by Aristotle. He felt that happiness was achieved by living a virtuous life. If you were virtuous, you would be happy. Practically, we can think of it like this: if you do things incongruent with your beliefs, you’ll be unhappy, so act according to your beliefs.

Everyone understands how having strong friendships makes one happy. We humans are social creatures and we need contact with other humans to achieve full happiness. Whether your inclination is toward extroversion or introversion, having a core group of friends that you can rely on no matter what is an essential factor in creating happiness.

Still, the most important facet of happiness is achieving great things. I admit that as an achievement-oriented individual, I am biased toward this facet, but as I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t feel happiness and pride when he or she achieves something he or she considers important, I refuse to back down on this one. If you really want to be happy, do something awesome.

I suppose at the end of the day, The Happiness Project and I believe in similar methods, but our perspectives differ. The project is based on the idea that happiness is an end to be achieved, while I’m more inclined to believe that happiness is a product of achieving ends and living well. If you follow the guidelines of The Happiness Project, you will always be chasing happiness every time you lose it, while if you choose instead to live well and forget abut happiness, you will never lose it. This is a paradox that you must understand if you truly wish to be happy.

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