People believe that happiness is a destination because they are looking for something finite and concrete in their lives, such as money, cars, power, success, education, career, and family. They believe that once they achieve these things, all the pieces of the happiness puzzle will just fall into place and they will automatically become happy.
However, most people discover that once they achieve a goal, they are still not as happy as they originally expected to be, and they start chasing the next goal in an infinite loop, never really able to achieve and maintain the true and unconditional happiness they want. And this is why perhaps why Buddha said that:
Happiness is a journey not a destination.Buddha
After all, achieving and holding onto happiness isn’t really possible since happiness is a rather fleeting, evasive, and ever-changing emotion, meaning that even if we can experience happiness at one point, we may later become unhappy again because:
- We may get used to what we have, known as hedonic adaptation,
- The things that make us happy may change, or
- We may want something else to be happy.
In this way, Buddha said that happiness is a journey because reaching one goal and moving on to the next can take time, life never stops, and we have lists of things that we want to achieve, so we might as well learn to enjoy the ride, which is life.
At the same time, happiness is both a journey and a destination, because our life changes, often for the better, once we achieve certain goals, meaning that our efforts can actually add up to something tangible and significant, which affects our well-being. Sure, we still need to enjoy the journey, and after we reach one destination, we need to start working on reaching the next destinations, which is why we also need to learn to enjoy the journey. Our journey matters, our goals matter, and we can improve our lives by taking the “right” actions.
Happiness is Not a Destination
There is no “and they live happily ever after” or “happy endings” according to happiness literature. Life is a continuous, ever-changing, living, breathing entity that cannot be achieved and maintained indefinitely. We constantly need to work on our well-being and maintain a this positive state through a continuous positive stream of action.
Therefore, happiness is not a destination, but rather a series of movements designed to improve our well-being. Hopefully, these movements will add up to something significant that we can call happiness, but even if they don’t, we should still be able to enjoy our life, every moment of it.
We cannot simply press a “skip” button to take us from one destination to the next, as was done in the movie Click (2006), where the protagonist essentially skipped the entire journey and went straight to the destination, but in doing so, he skipped his whole life, ending up with a pile of deathbed regrets:
Instead, the protagonist was able to find his happy ending by being allowed to go back in time and learning to enjoy the ups and downs of life as they happened to him. He savored every moment, even the bad ones, realizing that this is all we have – one life, and one continuous “happy ending” – a continuous journey we embark on.
Happiness is a Journey
Additionally, a life without problems is unrealistic, as we will always have problems, no matter who we are and what we do, and it is delusional to think otherwise. Even super rich people experience unhappiness, despite their vast fortunes and influence. So, in a way, being rich and influential may not be the best goal if what you really want is to be happy, or as the famous comedian Jim Carrey once said:
I hope everybody could get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they would know that it’s not the answer.
Simply put, good and bad things will happen to everyone, with smaller good or bad things happening more often than major events. In other words, something extremely good or bad will eventually happen to you, me, and everyone else, and it is just a matter of time before it happens to us, so we might as well anticipate and prepare for it rather than blaming or praising the universe when it does happen.
I’m not saying this to scare you or make you unhappy, but rather to set realistic expectations. Happiness is a journey, not something finite and concrete. We will experience ups and downs on a continuous basis, so we should learn to roll with the punches and enjoy every moment of it.
Happiness is Both a Journey AND Destinations
Human beings are not designed to be idle and we always need to be doing something, meaning that anyone who tells you that happiness is found in relaxing, procrastinating, and being idle is only telling you half of the story.
Sure, we should continue building ourselves up by setting goals and aiming to continuously improve our situation. Still, happiness is not a destination, but a way of life that we address on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, and goal-by-goal basis. We make the most of what we can and hopefully learn that we can be happy regardless of who we are, where we are from, and what our life circumstances are.
However, what we do matters—the destination of our goals matters. We can’t just throw up our hands and say that it doesn’t matter what we do, as our actions can lead to positive outcomes, while negative actions or inaction can lead to unhappiness.
In this way, when Buddha said that “happiness is a journey, not a destination,” he meant to say that we shouldn’t obsess about the destination and forget to live our lives in between achieving these goals. However, he didn’t say that we should forget about trying to improve our lives, fix our problems, or try to build something tangible that will positively affect our well-being, as this is exactly how we become and maintain our happiness.
So even if things get bumpy, remember that this is also part of the process. We need to learn to enjoy every moment of it never stopping to try to build something new and bigger.
This is essentially what we teach here at Optimal Happiness: helping people navigate through the rough patches and teaching them them the fastest and surest way to become happy today and forever. So, if you’ve read this far, know that you can book a free 30-minute call with one of our experts who can assist you in becoming the best and happiest version of yourself, helping you shape your “happily ever after” journey and destination.