Is Happiness a Reasonable Goal?

Posted by on April 29, 2002

One of my great joys is to monitor the online discussions between Wizard Academy graduates. From astrophysics to advertising to albino monkeys, you never know what question will be posed by one to be pondered by all. Recently, Lisa Davis stepped sideways from a discussion about Business Problem Topology to blurt out, “Is Happiness a Reasonable Goal?”

Several students responded to Lisa’s question. Among them, Russell Friedman, who wrote:

“Many years ago I watched a Firing Line TV special with William F. Buckley, in a long one-on-one interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous English Journalist/Philosopher/Religionist. They had an hour-long intellectual discussion about ‘happiness.’ I sat on my couch, getting more and more frustrated as I listened to the two of them pontificating on ‘happiness.’ When I could take it no longer, I grabbed a pen, and the envelope of an old piece of mail that was lying on the coffee table, and I wrote the following words: ‘Happiness is how I live my life. Happiness is an action, not a result.'”

‘The writer referenced below, Jo Coudert, came to parallel conclusions. I have watched people miss happiness because they didn’t realize they already had it. And I have known way too many people who were focused on how they would feel when and if they became ‘happy.’ Of course, they were disappointed, because, ‘Happiness is not really a feeling,’ again as stated below it is more of a by-product than a product. Goals are good, sometimes, but as in the case of happiness, they can cause us to live ‘out-of-the-moment,’ which is never okay. Thus, ‘I will be happy when… [fill in the blank]’ …is the great illusion. The fact is, if I am not happy now – I will not be happy when I get rich – I will not become happy when I lose 40 pounds – I will not be happy when I get married – and on and on and on.”

‘I was pleased to read what Lisa said about enjoying this kind of interaction as different to the topology stuff. I too, like being able to go back and forth in this area.”


Russell’s answer reminded me of a couple of quotes I had tucked away on my computer:

‘This is my depressed stance. When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this.” – Charlie Brown

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, and no one will suspect I’m afraid.” – Anna, in The King and I, by Rogers and Hammerstein

Just as actions can be the product of feelings, feelings can also be the product of actions. So… if how you’re going to feel later is determined by the actions that you take now, what actions are you going to take? You know what you need to do. Are you going to do it?

Roy H. Williams

PS – We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

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