I’ll admit it. The title of this post is deceptive. Many of you read it and probably did a double take. Did I really just tell you that you’ll never be happy? No…I told you that you will never find happiness.
The pursuit of happiness
Seven years ago, I was pursuing Tara, who is now my wife. Every day was a new adventure. One day I sent her flowers, the next I wrote her a poem, the next I’d surprise her at her house when she got off work. Every single day I did something intentionally to deepen our relationship.
I never expected for her to just accidentally fall in love with me. I never expected for her to just find love in her heart.
The same is true for happiness. You will never just find it. It must be created intentionally. It must be worked for.
Like a good marriage
Tara and I are currently going through Michael Hyatt’s goal-setting course 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever together. I did it alone last year, but I wanted for us to share in this remarkable course together this year.
In the course, one of the first questions Michael asks is, “How have you settled?” The first thing I wrote down was “I’ve settled in my marriage.”
My mind flashed back to the early days of our relationship, when I was pursuing her. What happened to that man? Where had my passion gone?
The thing I realized is that good marriages don’t just happen. They aren’t discovered. They don’t “fall into place” because two people were just “made for each other.” Hollywood would like us to believe that, but it’s simply not how it works in the real world. Too many of us have bought into the lie that we’ve been told. Perhaps that explains the divorce rate in this country.
Good marriages don’t just happen. They are:
- Worked for
- Intentionally nurtured
- Sacrificed for
Happiness is the same way.
It isn’t discovered. It isn’t found in a book or a movie. It isn’t even found in pleasure.
True happiness is:
- Worked for
- Intentionally nurtured
- Sacrificed for
Working for happiness
When I was pursuing Tara, I worked hard at the relationship. I put in the time. Even when I was pressed for time, I worked at the relationship.
Happiness requires the same dedication. You have to put in the time.
Intentionally nurturing happiness
I didn’t just work hard at our relationship without a plan. I made the time by planning my days out.
I didn’t always get to be there when she got home and I couldn’t always write her a poem, so on those days she got a simple email or flowers. When I had thirty minutes, I intentionally spent it planning a fun day with her or writing her a note. I was intentional about nurturing the relationship.
Happiness and pleasure are not the same.
Happiness requires the same intentional nurturing. You have to intentionally put time in your calendar for you. You have to intentionally set aside time to do things like keep a gratitude journal, spend time with friends, delegate projects that are upsetting you, and get exercise.
When you are intentional about nurturing your own happiness, it spreads to others.
Sacrificing for happiness
You have to sacrifice for your happiness.
Sacrifice sounds like the opposite of happiness, right? But when Tara and I were dating, I made sacrifices for her. I sacrificed sleep to wave to her as she drove by my apartment on the way to work. I sacrificed some time with friends to spend more time with her. I sacrificed hobbies to invest in our relationship.
And, of course, it was all worth it.
Happiness requires the same sacrifice. You have to sacrifice the things that bring temporary pleasure for your long-term happiness. But happiness and pleasure are not the same.
You may have to sacrifice two hours browsing the internet, which is a temporary pleasure, to invest in a relationship, which is longer lasting. Or you might sacrifice an hour of reading a gossip magazine for an hour of exercise, which will boost your happiness for the rest of the day.
Happiness is in the pursuit
Happiness does not come from success. It comes from the pursuit of something meaningful. It comes from the journey, not the destination.
When Tara and I walked down the aisle as husband and wife to the sounds of “Beautiful Day” by U2, it felt like a victory celebration. We won! We did it! But that single day does not equal happiness. Happiness is not just a wedding day, it’s every day before and after.
Happiness doesn’t come from success. It comes from the continued pursuit of something meaningful.
Our wedding day felt like the end of a pursuit to me. After that, I settled. I settled because I felt like I’d won. But in reality, the work was only just beginning. I’ve spent the past six-plus years forgetting what I am telling you today.
Happiness in marriage does not come from that single day. It comes from the pursuit of something meaningful: the deepening of your relationship with your spouse. It comes from working for the relationship, intentionally nurturing it, and sacrificing for another person.
Happiness is the same way. It doesn’t come from the destination. It comes from the journey. It comes from the pursuit.
My wife’s affection and devotion is certainly meaningful to me. So is my happiness.
The pursuit of both continues…
Are you working for, nurturing, and sacrificing for your own happiness?