Stop Chasing Unambiguous Happiness

Driving home this evening, listening to NPR describe “Why We’re Happy Being Sad,” I could not help but reflect on the concept of unambiguous happiness.

I am arguably obsessed with understanding happiness.  After all, my book is titled Expecting Happiness, the Happiness Project inspired me to start writing, and I have been chasing happiness in one form or another since childhood.  Many of us have, right?

That’s the thing.  Chasing happiness makes it sound unattainable, which is untrue.  I just think NPR touches on something real.  Most of us have a complex type of happiness.  In fact, I can’t think of anyone I know personally who doesn’t.

Maybe that’s the secret, stop chasing unambiguous happiness.

Putting it on my list of things to do.

For now, a little more ambiguously (un)happy music.  I have a thing for songs where people shout “Hey” this week, be warned.

And, I have a soft spot for these bookstore-recorded, rawly emotional gems, (probably because they were recorded in a bookstore…):

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12 thoughts on “Stop Chasing Unambiguous Happiness

  1. kingmidget says:

    Like the Mumford & Sons songs posted here. I love those kind of performances also. Regarding your post, it’s an interesting topic. You ask at one point about whether we all spend our lives chasing happiness. I think we “all” don’t. There are people who accept their lives and there those who don’t. I’m not an accepter and wish I was. As I result, I’m one of those people who has spent his life chasing happiness. I’d like to stop it and figure out how the accepters do it. Have yet to figure it out.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I may exaggerate sometimes 😉 But, I’d say most people I know chase happiness. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing though. Chasing pushes us to be better, to live life more fully, to do things like write books and put ourselves out there. I don’t think it keeps me from being happy, I just always feel like the real life version of happiness is more complex and ambiguous than the kind of happiness I chase. I’m coming to grips with this 😉

      • kingmidget says:

        That’s why I could never be an “accepter.” The chase is what keeps me moving forward, trying new things, etc. I’m still looking for the utopian version of happiness — where everything is as it should be. Maybe I need to set my sights a little lower. 🙂

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Haha, me too. It’s just a delicate balance between appreciating what is enough and wanting more.

  2. Seb says:

    I dunno. I’m pretty happy, but I can’t tell you why. Most of the things I want are pretty unambiguous to me. And that concludes the things I want but can’t have.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      See to me it’s not about being happy or not. I’m not sure I wrote that very well. It’s more that overall happiness seems to be layered with a lot of factors that will probably never be 100% perfect. The trick to me is accepting they don’t need to be to maintain a high level of overall happiness. Some people, men especially, seem better at this! I’m working on it.

      • kingmidget says:

        Not all men.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Fair enough. My husband is more easily content than I am, so I think I made a little anecdotal generalization, (probably the worst kind of generalization ;).

      • kingmidget says:

        It wasn’t such a bad generalization. I think you’re somewhat right, although I might change it slightly. The thing I marvel at is women who have young children … how they stop that chase in the interests of mothering their child. I was a dedicated dad for so many years, but I also never stopped the chase that was independent of my parenting responsibilities.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        I’ve noticed that too. I fear it might be biological. I hope it doesn’t happen to me… I know it doesn’t happen to every woman, so I’m keeping faith it doesn’t have to.

      • kingmidget says:

        It’s completely up to you. 🙂

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