Intentionally pursuing happiness is rather counterproductive
By JENIBELLE HSU
Imagine your life in the future. Who will you be with? What is your dream home? What career will you have?
We have all our must-haves and absolutely-nots for the perfect life. Although we may not be certain in what we are looking for, we still follow our handy checklist in our pursuit of happiness. And thanks to the internet, we can easily narrow down our preferences with taps and clicks.
Yet, the road to the perfect life is inherently bumpy, since our vision of the future is ever-changing and seldom impractical.
Ironically, as we search frantically for who or what makes us happy, we miss out on life’s surprises and ignore our gut instincts.
In particular, our bucket lists may limit the possibilities at achieving happiness. For example, with the holiday season in session, people of all ages dream of receiving certain gifts and the secret santas of the world skim through customer reviews or “best christmas gifts for __” sites to discover the perfect present.
However, the bests gifts may not always be what we imagined to love, because our preconceived notions about our preferences may be wrong. Similarly, we may not live the life we imagined in our heads, but that does not mean that we will be discontent. Though straying away from orderly checklists sounds risky, one must welcome new possibilities, because the most unexpected rewards may be most beloved in the long run.
Recently, the pursuit of happiness has reached into the corporate world, where employers hire Chief Happiness Officers or CHO to monitor employees’ well-being. Though CHOs aim to promote a safe workplace, many employees may feel self-conscious and restricted as they constantly reflect on their emotions and are encouraged to accept a “standard” meaning of happiness.
One common way to “calculate happiness” is to hand out surveys questioning employees’ satisfaction with their lives or outlooks on the future, but every person interprets such ambiguous qualities differently. Therefore, the “test results” may foster more panic attacks than healthy mindsets.
What these employers are missing is that happiness is cannot be tracked down in progress reports; our feelings cannot be distinguished like black and white. When we deliberately analyze our “happiness levels.” we resort to emulate how other “star students” found happiness, and overlook our own exciting but unpredictable journey to a perfect (or near perfect) life.
Nevertheless, abiding by personal criterias seems more reliable than following our dubious hearts in a world with too many possibilities. For many people looking to settle down, waiting for fate to bring “the one” is simply unrealistic. Therefore, online dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble sort out potential suitors based on one’s vision and bring together many soul mates who would have never met otherwise.
Undeniably, the internet provides people virtually foolproof ways to find happiness, yet not everyone is guaranteed to meet their perfect match online.
As a child, I imagined adopting a playful shelter cat that can enchant my boring life. However, a lazy yet loving tabby introduced by a neighbor ultimately stole my heart. Likewise, you may one day live happily with your soulmate who is “not your type” or “out of your league” in a house that too closely resembles your dreadful childhood home. When we try too hard to pursue an ideal life, we may unintentionally hinder fate from doing its work.
The bottomline is: though we may try to “force” happiness into our lives, we should follow where our hearts go, even to the least expected places and people.