Are you happy? Do you know how to be happy?
Happiness is a state of being that doesn’t just happen to us. It is the result of a life full of joyful moments. Therefore, we have to pursue it!
Though it originated with John Locke (English philosopher), Thomas Jefferson made famous the phrase “pursuit of happiness” when he included it in the Declaration of Independence. It’s ingrained in our American culture from the beginning. We have the right to happiness and so we pursue it. The Declaration of Independence doesn’t tell us how to pursue happiness though. That isn’t its purpose. Its purpose was to declare our independence and gain liberty. We are left to our own devices to figure out how to pursue happiness.
But have we figured out how to be happy? Take a look at mainstream media and follow the trail of money. We’ve decided things that give us short-term pleasure, immediate gratification, and success is what will bring us happiness. At the same time we have more disease, shallow relationships, and increased mental health issues.
Interestingly, John Locke’s book, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, that coined the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” was about the difference between “imaginary happiness and true happiness”. Unknowingly, I’ve been pursuing imaginary happiness. What about you? I’m switching gears now. It’s never too late!
On pursuit-of-happiness.org it’s explained that:
“the pursuit of happiness as envisaged by him [Locke] and by Jefferson was not merely the pursuit of pleasure, property, or self-interest (although it does include all of these). It is also the freedom to be able to make decisions that results in the best life possible for a human being, which includes intellectual and moral effort.”
So, in the origin of our nation, we just wanted to be free to be the best version of ourselves. I think we can summarize that happiness according to founders of our nation is actualized in part when we feel we are pursuing the best version of ourselves. It’s an intellectual and moral pursuit.
What we learn from John Locke is that the source of joy (then true happiness) comes from engaging in those things that lead us to the best versions of ourselves.