Disappointed in Life, a young friend recently asked why happiness had eluded them. Why couldn't they be happy? Why isn't life being better to them? At the risk of sounding like a self-help book or a pop philosopher, it seems to me....
It seems to me that if we give up on something (e.g., a relationship, a college education, self-discovery) just because it is hard, we will not have a very satisfying life. If we generalize the painful or unpleasant experiences in our life, then it will seem as if Life is against us. If we need perfection in our self and others, then we are doomed to a life of disappointment in our self and others. If all we see are the walls that we hit, then Life will seem like a miserable maze filled with concrete barriers. If we continue to be hard on our self and others, then we will live a lonely life. However, if we open our self up to enjoying the wonder of Life, to exploring the variety of people within our sphere of influence, to pursuing the meaning and purpose of our own time on this planet, then, when our days are over, we will have had a life that we enjoyed.
It seems to me that when we pursue happiness, it eludes us. However, when we pursue meaning and purpose, happiness is a delightful by-product. As examples, when we pursue marriage, we will find someone, regardless of whether or not they are good for us... or bad for us. However, when we pursue an appropriate partner in life, then a good marriage is a by-product. When we pursue the acceptance or love of others, we will probably get it, but it will be fleeting and unsatisfying, because it is theirs to give or to withhold, not ours to demand or command. However, when we pursue our own identity (aka self-knowledge), then we will be in a better position to know who and what we want, to know who and what is good for us, and to have the strength and skills with which to deal with choices, decisions, commitments, responsibilities, success, failure, rejection, adversity, pain, and loss.
It seems to me that most of the things that we pursue in our lives are better left un-pursued.
Now I'm not suggesting that we just passively or indifferently let Life come to us. I'm just saying that most of what we want in life will come to us through routes other than direct pursuit. For example, happiness. In truth, happiness is fleeting. We think that a new car will make us happy, and, then, when the new-car smell is gone, we're not as happy as we were when we bought it. And, frankly, we think that a new spouse will make us happy (in fact, for most people it is part of the job description of a spouse), but when the "new-spouse smell" wears off, when they disappoint us, when our needs are in conflict, then we're unhappy and we want to know where our happiness went.
If the happiness is not already inside of us, then pursuing it won't do us any good.
However, if we pursue self-knowledge, then, quite honestly, an attitude of self-contentment, a joy in our purpose, a satisfaction in the meaning of our endeavors, will allow us to view the world through happy eyes. Have you ever pursued a butterfly? Then you know that pursuit pushes it away---and peace and quiet create the perfect environment to encourage it to visit your garden. And, it helps, A LOT, if you plant the right kind of flowers, the kinds that attract butterflies. Just a thought.