Today, Be Anything but Happy

A pineapple on the beach

Sometimes I read stuff like this article called “Why Pursuing Happiness is the Greatest Goal” and wonder why traditional advice doesn’t seem to apply to me.

I just absently blink at 90 percent of the “awesome truths” that “change people’s lives.” When I try to apply them to my own life, I end up totally dissatisfied, living in a yurt with a mouthful of chia seeds dribbling down my face, yelling positive affirmations into the mirror.

I’m pretty sure if there is anything that makes humans miserable, it’s chasing happiness.

Knowing that it’s The Goal of almost everyone I know is so tragic I can’t. Hardly. Even.

Before you get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with happiness…It’s just not a goal. And exalting one emotion doesn’t sit well with me

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Happiness is NOT a good goal

As a goal it’s fucking ridiculous; as a system it’s terrible. You can not “work” towards “happiness.” It’s like trying to “ski” towards “undecided:” it’s not snowing, that’s not how you get there, we aren’t on a mountain…and…just…no.

Working toward happiness is intangible hobblegog. Think about it.

How can you recognize a non-goal?

Calling these things out by name always seems to be the first step. It’s like Voldemort. I’ll say it: “Volde-happiness in not a goal.”

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You can tell you have a crap goal when the breadth of its fingers reach too far. When you try to conceptualize a goal and it ends up wildly disjointed, you don’t have a goal.

The ambiguous hodgepodge goal of “happiness” is ever-reaching. You try to write it down and it comes out this scribbly mess that covers everything from love and marriage to material stuff. It dips its toes into meal prep, veers off into pet ownership, debt relief, then circles back to freezer meals. It’s like a millennial who can’t pick a major: directionless and ultimately headed towards disappointment (sorry millennials).

It’s ambiguous. We have bullet journals and to-do lists and schedules and software for schedules. But for some reason none of these can be used to quantify or organize “happiness.”

Don’t start shitting on journals and to-do lists either. “Everything can’t be so tidy and organized and fit on paper, DGGYST, you cold hearted shrew.”

Like hell it can’t.

We have systems for everything else and they work. Happiness is not some princess we have to cart around on its own special pillow and expect not to follow any of the rules. Don’t treat something like a goal that can’t be held to the standards of, you know, a real goal.

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Real goal, you say?

There are a few magical forces in the world that legit blow my mind. One of them is the power of setting an intention for the day.

I set one of four intentions for the day. I’ve never needed more than four. I wake up every morning and I say, “Today I will…”

These are the only four goals I ever have. Ever. “Today, I will be happy” has never come out of my mouth. But here are the things that have:

Today I will:

Be relaxed

If your goal for today was “be relaxed,” there are steps and systems you can actively take to make that a reality. You may not be able to be relaxed the whole day, but enjoying a bubble bath, a massage, stretching, a walk in nature, an orgasm, a good book, a cup of cocoa, and you have taken actual steps to achieve an actual goal.

Be social

Again, real phones can be picked up to call real people. Which can be used to arrange real meetings at real coffee shops for real conversations.

Be productive

Food can be cooked, emails can be sent, floors can be swept, and bills can be paid.

Be creative

When I spend an afternoon on a rainy day writing and painting in my studio, guess what? I have a blog post or story and an actual painting to show for it.

Humans need something to show for the day. They need concrete statements: I painted a painting, I took a walk, I caught up with an old friend. “I was happy” doesn’t happen; there is nothing to show.

Not only is happiness a crap goal; it’s a crap emotion

Happiness: the emotion we want to experience most but understand the least. I use the word happiness in my vocabulary to mean “it brought a smile to my face.”

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Because really I have no fucking idea what it means.

I know what it means to be fascinated. I know what it means to be entertained. I know what it means to be excited I know what it means to be satisfied.

And coincidentally, I know what fascinates and entertains and excites and satisfies me and how to take steps toward achieving those emotions. But happy… Happy just kind of happens.

If you want to get your shit together, stop trying to be happy. There are a lot better goals to have.

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130 thoughts on “Today, Be Anything but Happy

  1. “intangible hobblegog” is a brilliant turn of phrase

    And yes, I absolutely agree. I was talking to a friend the other day who was annoyed because someone she barely knew had asked “Are you happy?” We had a long ranty conversation about how this question doesn’t even make sense. If you’re blissful or ecstatic literally all the time, then there’s probably something quite seriously wrong, because there are times when those emotions aren’t appropriate at all (like when someone you love dies). They probably meant “Are you content with your lot in life?” which is a more valid question but still not really specific enough. I mean, personally I’m pretty content with the vast majority of my life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I’m working to change. Striving for change is part of the human experience.

    I love your four “Today I will…” thoughts too. I don’t do this as consciously as you do, but I think in practice I do a very similar thing, minus the “be social” (unsurprisingly). Most of my days are either spent working (be productive); writing / reading (be creative); or doing what’s marked on my calendar as ‘CTFO’ – ‘chill the fuck out’ (relaxing).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much. Thats such a great point; it is no ones desire to run around with a permanent smile affixed to their face. Happy is an emotion that shouldn’t be placed so high above all the other ones! I love “Chill the fuck out” thats my kind of advice! lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Mah Butt Itches and commented:
    Once again, this is brilliant. Happiness is a perspective and a choice. It’s not a destination, mile marker, or even permanent. It’s also not exclusive. One can be happy and sad at the same time, because most people confuse happiness with joy. Happy literally means content. Not skipping around weirdly in a tampon commercial. And there is no pre-requisite to happiness. Lastly, as Alan Watts said: “the capacity to feel pleasure is known by the capacity for pain. You can’t know one without the other. They’re related as front is to back.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Happiness is not a good goal, I truly love that. It reminds me of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Just live your life normally and happiness will find you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know how I missed this post, but I’m super glad I came over to see if I had anything to check up on!
    Happiness is the shittiest goal in the world. You can be happy while doing a million other things that are far better goals. Fuck, walking my dog makes me happy, but that’s also productive in the sense that I’m exercising, he’s exercising, and he’s not taking a shit on my floor.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love your outlook. This is a great way to put it. One day a motivational friend of mine asked me what I wanted out of life, and I told him “I want to be happy”. Seeming unpleased with my response he corrected me and said “That’s what you think. What you really want, is not to be bored.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s one of the rules that many mental health professionals forget – when making goals, make sure they are measurable and achievable. Happiness is too esoteric to make as a goal. It’s easier to break it down to practicing those things which invite positive feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My nickname? I’m naturally blonde, Nordic looking, and over 6 feet tall. And I can sing opera. Valkyrie wasn’t too much of a stretch. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Omg, there are SO many people in social work who have no business there. They don’t do it to serve, they do it to judge. I get so mad and want to yell “YOU! Out of my profession!” I’m so possessive of my ideals. Yeesh. Thank you. I don’t often see someone express things in ways I would or in the same exasperated, humorous, take no shit way I try for. Seriously, your blog gives me hope.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Girl, you give me hope in social workers! In the 34 foster homes I have been in, the social worker never went inside the foster homes when they dropped me off! (That’s Detroit for ya)


  7. Legit what I tell people all the time but no one gets it. Everyone around me is like “pledge to be happy today”!! Like I can’t sit in one place and smile like a fool then sleep thinking…..oh! I was happy all day coz I just did nothing but smile…all day!!!!. Wow!!!
    Loved your post…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh how I wish I had read this 3days ago but guess what?? I achieved happiness today…. finally! And you are so right about this 😥 forever in debt to this post! 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  9. ‘Volde-happiness’…..that made me chuckle! Great post, Im going to try these 4 ‘I wills…’ in the morning before I get out of bed….I think the first of the four will be achieving actually getting out of bed! hahah

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is exactly the words and guidance my brain and heart needed right now, as chasing happiness seems to cause mine to malfunction, refusing to coexist with one another. Thank you for sharing your insight. I would love to share your post on my blog to help others who assume happiness is “goalable”. (see what I did there!) xxoo

    Liked by 2 people

  11. omg love this! as someone who constantly blogs about happiness, lol – this is great and so true – happiness should never be a goal to be achieved but part of a positive emotion. Also, I do affirmations daily, 3 things I am grateful for and 3 things that made today great – it’s really the best way to keep your eyes above water!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You’re right, happiness is too general of a term and doesn’t explain specifically what a person wants out of life. I think I had an idealized image in my head (before I read your post) about “being happy” or “wanting happiness” as some magical unicorn that would give me fuzzy feels all day long, or that one day I would improve myself to the point where I would wake up and feel like a magical unicorn with no anxiety or bad feels to get me down. And now I realize that is just not possible lol. What I’m after isn’t really “happiness” but stability and productiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

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