Is there more to life than the quest for happiness?

I have been pondering this question and am interested in hearing from my readers:  If you had to describe what you want from life without using the word happiness, what words would you use to describe a life well-lived?

“Our culture is steeped in a kind of pop psychology whose obsessive question is: Are you happy?” – Rebecca Solnit, from the book, The Mother of All Questions

I started reading Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Mother of All Questions, and came across the above sentence in quotes. It was as if a switch was turned on in my brain and I experienced one brief moment of clarify.

“Happiness is often described as the result of having many ducks lined up in a row — spouse, offspring, private property…”  – R. Solnit

Aside from being out of work, life has been good for me lately, according to this formula of happiness. Yet I know life can change, and I have this tendency to think about what happens if one of the ingredients for this one-dimensional definition of happiness is lost. Especially for women, who have historically been forced into a very narrow existence where their version of happiness is meant to be derived solely from another’s identity.

“The problem may be a literary one: we are given a single story line about what makes life good.”- R. Solnit

We all know that there are plenty of people out there who have all the outward appearances of the “good life”, and yet they seem to be miserable, or spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of self sabotage. The unraveling of this formula for happiness happens more frequently and easily than one might expect and is rooted in a dissatisfaction with the one-dimensional definition of what makes life good. Deep within oneself is the awareness that this one short life we are given is much more complex than outward symbols of happiness.

“There are entirely different criteria for a good life that might matter more to a person – loving and being loved or having satisfaction, honor, meaning, depth, engagement, hope.” R. Solnit

Living life according to my own set of principles and values, having compassion and concern for future generations, and caring about more than my own small dot on this planet is what I strive for in my short time on earth.



9 thoughts on “Is there more to life than the quest for happiness?

    • I know what you mean. Being engaged in something outside of myself helps me to see the world differently and at the same time focus on what is important. Thanks for your insights. Amy

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I love what you shared. I’ve never been quite sure of what happiness entails. I would say it is important to have peace in my life and to help create peace in the lives of others. I would say that gratitude plays a big part in that…suffering falls into everyone’s life…but there is still so much to be grateful for. We need to remind each other of how much there is to be grateful for…and what usually really matters is what so many consider ordinary and within our reach.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reminding me of the role gratitude plays in our lives. I can see that your optimism and gratitude are making a difference in your daughter’s lives and those of us who have had similar experiences. It is wonderful to be able to share our experiences and encourage each other and I am grateful for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy,

    This was a great post at the perfect time. I’m constantly beating myself up for not being where I think I should be in my life but you reminded me that I need to look at the bigger picture. Not to compromise my values and seek to show compassion, as well as other good principles, to future generations.

    Similarly, I loved what ofagreatneed said in her comment: “…and what usually really matters is what so many consider ordinary and within our reach.” I need to constantly remind myself of that great reality.

    You’re helping me (and many others) more than you realize!

    Thank you!


    • It is so easy to beat ourselves up for not being where we think we should be. It is nice to pause and realize that we can make a difference where we are right now, and that we are all searching for the connection that we as human beings crave. I am helped by your words as well! Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your philosophy. Thank you for sharing. I don’t seek happiness as much as I just choose to be happy regardless of what is going on around me. This way I don’t need to look for others for fulfillment and I can function more fully as an integral part of the world I find myself in.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seek anything, seek skills, seek knowledge, seek understanding, seek wisdom, even seek fame or money, but seek anything other than happiness if you want to be happy. We are happy when we become better than we were.

    Liked by 1 person

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