Is Happiness Really What We Should Be Chasing?
By Dr. Kristine Klussman
When you ask someone what they want out of life, odds are good they’ll say, “to be happy.” The pursuit of happiness is so ingrained in our culture. It is described in the U.S. Declaration of Independence as something we have a fundamental, God-given right to – right up there with life and liberty! But what if pursuing happiness doesn’t actually make us happy? What if we discovered that by chasing happiness, we actually make ourselves unhappier?
Well, that is exactly what’s happened. Psychology research shows that the more we think about trying to happy, the unhappier we feel. Happiness is just an emotion – something temporary. Emotions naturally shift as we move through and react to our world. When we pretend that we should (or even can) feel happy most of the time, we become painfully aware that we are NOT happy all the time...and never will be.
Over the last two decades as a health psychologist, I’ve been working on figuring out a better goal for us to chase – something that delivers a more lasting satisfaction, and positive experience along the way. I call it “Connection.”
Connection is my shorthand for the incomparable bliss of knowing and embracing your values and true self, authentically moving through the world nurturing positive connections with other people and the world around you. The idea of connecting (to your own self, to other people, and to any other aspect of our lives) is something with intuitive appeal for us. Life is really all about relationships – how we relate to ourselves, to others, to the world, to our work, etc. What would happen if we focused on strengthening all of those relationships, instead of trying to be “happy”?
Turns out, we are a lot better off. My research shows that people who prioritize connection to self-score extremely high across all objective measures of well-being. They’re in touch with their values and priorities, they know what brings them meaning, and they live their lives accordingly. They are flourishing.
The reason is this: because building connection to self first, and then extending it to others nurtures what we most crave as human beings. Clarity. Authenticity. Belonging. Meaning. Purpose. And these are what offer us true, sustainable life satisfaction.
Connection is the key to contentment that transcends happiness. I invite you to try out a new lens on the world and start chasing what’s really most important in life.
About the Author
Kristine Klussman Ph.D. is a health psychology writer, speaker, and researcher whose connection-based theory of well-being aims to help the greatest number of people live more productive, fulfilling, and authentic lives. Her first book is anticipated in 2020.
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