The Pursuit of Happiness

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I think I know where happiness lies. I just don't think it's easy to get there. But isn't the climb worth it?
I think I know where happiness lies. I just don’t think it’s easy to get there. But isn’t the climb worth it?

People chase money.

They chase sex. Fame. Status.

They chase adventure. Education. Fitness.

People chase fun. Friendship. Spiritual peace.

In the end, people are chasing these things day in and day out because they believe achieving them will make them feel good.

We don’t really want millions of dollars. We just want to not be enslaved to debt. To never be stressed about unexpected bills. To never worry about how we’re going to pay for something. To have the means to acquire things or participate in various activities.

We want to do all those things because we believe doing so will enrich our lives.

It’s the pursuit of happiness.

Misery Loves Company

I was several hundred words into another post when a friend texted. Her marriage is on the rocks. Has been for a long time.

She had a rough weekend with her husband.

Then something happened, triggering some atypical emotional responses in her.

“It sent me into a tailspin,” she said. “I’m questioning EVERYTHING.”

I know how you feel.

It doesn’t take much, sometimes.

I told her we both suffer from the same problem.

That we’re both in phases in our lives where we’re simply waking up every day, doing what’s required of us, and trying to not die.

It’s a wholly dissatisfying way to live.

There’s little fun. There’s no peace. And happiness is a long-forgotten stranger.

A figment of my imagination, it seems. Something I remember feeling, but not what the actual experience is like.

Like a decadent dessert you tried long ago.

You don’t remember the flavor. Only that it was beautiful and that you want to taste it again.

What I Want

I texted my friend: “What do you want? Be specific.

“To me, the only thing that makes sense is to write down specifically what you want. Really specific.

“Then, only do things that get you closer to those things.

“Everything else is a colossal waste of time and energy.

“We don’t have a lot of time.”

Well, alright then, Matt. Try not to be a hypocritical douchebag for once in your life.

What do you really want?

  1. I want a partner who I love and trust. I want to share the same life philosophies. I want to share meals and laughs and drinks and friends with her. I want to have ridiculously adventurous and spirited sex that would make all of my friends jealous if they only knew. And I want to always be giving more to the relationship than I’m taking.
  2. I want to be a good father to my son. I want to set a good example for him spiritually, intellectually, financially and socially.
  3. I want to spend more time surrounded by friends and family.
  4. I want to wake up every day, write whatever I want, and make enough money to maintain whatever lifestyle I choose.
  5. I want to be at my physical peak. Because I like how I feel when I am. I like feeling wanted. I like having mountains of energy. I like being strong.
  6. I want to live a life where I help other people acquire all of the things on their What I Want lists.
  7. I want to achieve spiritual peace.

So, what do I need to be doing right now, and tomorrow morning, and the next day, and the next to achieve those things?

  1. I can’t do anything about #1. But it will come. I can concentrate on the rest.
  2. I can be a better man, I can read more, I can be more financially disciplined, and I can be a better friend.
  3. I need only reach out and make the effort to be with those I love.
  4. I don’t know that I can do much more than I’m doing. I need to read more. Get smarter. Get wiser. Practice the craft. And maybe, if the stars align, someone will decide to trade money for words. Goonies never say die.
  5. Work out. Stop being a chump. Make the effort. Every day. First a little, then a lot. I need it. Excuses are bullshit.
  6. I do try to help people. Perhaps I can do a much better job. Ask more questions. Listen thoughtfully. Then, when possible, take meaningful action to help others achieve their dreams.
  7. All I need to do is say “Thank you” every single chance I get and be good even when no one’s watching. That will be an excellent step toward being the man I want to be.

I don’t want to be rich.

I don’t want to be famous.

I don’t want to be popular.

I just want to feel, deep within me, the peace and happiness that has eluded me in adulthood.

And I believe so strongly that it can only be achieved through great effort.

That this world gives you what you put into it.

That you must ALWAYS give more than you take.

In your human relationships.

In your professional relationships.

In your spiritual relationship.

You can sit around like me. Play the victim card. Why me, God? Why?

Or you can actually do something.

Happiness isn’t hiding behind that bush over there.

It’s big and shiny and on display for the world to see.

Only it sits atop a mountain. A big one.

And the weak can’t get there. The lazy can’t capture it.

Without strength, without discipline, without resolve, without faith, without perseverance, without courage, the climb will break your spirit.

Better to just sit staring longingly at the summit?

Or to prepare for the difficult climb?

I’m tired of this shit.

The climb must begin.

36 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Happiness”

    1. Thank you. My favorite thing about my life turning shitty is figuring out that LOTS of people feel the same way.

      Universal problems.

      And that’s great.

      Because that means there are universal solutions.

      Maybe with a little fortitude I can learn firsthand how to overcome it. Then, perhaps I really can help someone else do the same.

      That sounds like providence to me.

      1. Love the idea of universal solutions; one thing blogging has taught me is that one is never as alone or unique in one’s misery as one might have originally thought. I love that, it gives strength – and hope!

  1. I am fond of lists, particularly important lists. They help us actualize what our roving thoughts, our perceived wants and very real needs are. It is so important to know what your underlying beliefs, values and goals are. When we shop without a list we often come home without the all important item and additional things we didn’t really need. If we live without clear ideals and goals perhaps a similar thing happens.

    Climb like Spartacus climbed Mt Vesuvius my friend! Just think how much better that might have turned out (in the end) if only Spartacus had been fond of lists. This is very unfair of me as Spartacus isn’t around to confirm or deny his fondness for list making. Being an excellent tactician perhaps he was but my point is to embrace those wonderful beliefs of yours keep saying, “I’m sick of this shit” and overthrow the oppression that grips you….

    1. 🙂

      What a lovely comment. Thank you.

      Spartacus may well have been a fantastic list maker.

      People might roll their eyes at writing stuff down. But it’s important.

      Write it down. Then, do it.

  2. Excellent outlook, Matt! Also this is very motivational to anyone looking to better themselves or their lives.

    Your lists are a great idea, that I believe many people (me included) would find to be very beneficial if they were to sit down and write their own.

    1. We can’t get what we want if we don’t first identify it.

      Then the work begins. But is it really so intimidating if we know all that we want lies at the end?

      I’m not so sure it is.

      We just need to get out of our own way.

      Thank you for reading and saying hi. 🙂

  3. I agree completely that we need to be specific. I asked for something a little better than I’d been getting in the dating world, I got a short lived beautiful romance that didn’t last long enough. I asked for a distraction, I got a crazy ex con who told me he loved me after 1 week. Seriously…lesson learned.
    Be specific…and make it about YOU and not something on the outside.
    I want to have more fun. (going to start doing shit, not just thinking about it)
    I want to lose the belly fat. (I’m going to stop eating crap just because I think I earned it)
    I want to stop making excuses (so I’m going to stop doing it)
    I want to be happy with myself, by myself and stop thinking a relationship will make my life any better until it’s no longer a desire. (I know that sounds odd, but I believe the relationship I’m waiting for is waiting for me to get my shit together and stop searching for it on the outside)
    I want to be a better mom. (I’m going to be more engaged, don’t tell the kids they’ll only hide)

    I want to live a life worth writing about…

    Here’s to a Fabulous 2014. I’m going to rock this I am sure you are too!

    1. Funny you mention the be-happy-with-yourself part. I was just having that conversation.

      And that’s what my stepfather–a man I love and respect very much–said to me. “You have to learn to be happy by yourself before you can be happy in a new relationship.”

      Things that are frustrating and hard to hear are almost always true. 🙂

  4. Goonies never say die, indeed. PS- this post made me think of the Miley Cyrus song “The Climb” and I’m sorry.

    I like your approach– this is very much how I try to approach goals/wants/whatevers. To kind of figure out what the destination is and then trace my steps back to where I am so I know what the first one will be. You’re clearly well on the way, you have an incredible amount of focus and a grasp on what you want.

    1. I don’t know how much focus I have!

      Are you a big Miley fan because you wish whatever country music star you grew up next to, really was Billy Ray?

      1. Haha! No, I swear I’m not! It’s just that my sister in law plays that song like crack when she’s on roadtrips and it make my crazed niece and nephew lull off into a dream land. So I know it well…

        And well, you seem focused!

  5. This was wonderful. All along, I kept thinking…You are that man you want to be…already. Sometimes, being “stuck, planted, in that mindset of preparing to be who you want somehow keeps us from realizing we are already exactly who we want to be. You know? I had a wise teacher once who would say to these thoughts …”It’s only a thought away”. There’s something very truthful in what she said. I saw the man you want to be in this post so maybe, just maybe, he’s closer than you might think. I’m just thinking out loud. I really like your blog. Jayne

    1. I appreciate this very much. And I promise to give it more thought.

      But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you I have some human failings that need tended to.

      Thank you for saying you like what you read here. That’s always so nice to read.

  6. While making lists are useful, in the end, sometimes writing is just writing.
    Talk is talk.
    Action is where the change happens. Do more; talk about it less.
    I like that you want to be a better man.
    Start small. Simple gestures.

    1. While I don’t think I want to talk about it less, I totally agree with you that it’s more important to do than to say. A lot more.

      I’m getting there.

  7. Matt,

    First I will argue that you’re already well on your way with #2- being a good father. Stop beating yourself up!

    I’ve written a lot about pursuit of xyz in life, and I can sum up my thoughts in this phrase: “Every soul has a thirst that only God can satisfy. ” I believe that what you seek first will order your life. Seek first three Kingdom of God, and all else will fall into their order. (Notice I didn’t say things would be easy. )

    Seek God. Work hard. Work out. Eat healthy. Love on your son. Never speak ill of your ex wife.

    You’ll be happy, you’ll find peace, you’ll be grateful, you’ll be blessed.

    Know I’m praying for you, friend.

    1. Thank you. I didn’t mean to suggest I’m a BAD father. I’m not. But ideally, I’d be an exceptional one.

      I appreciate your prayers, immensely. Thank you.

  8. Everyone gets crazy with the lists and the resolutions and crap this time of year. I agree with SAT Girl’s comment. Anyone can make a list and then proceed to ignore it. Nike has it right. I’d rather eschew lists and “just do it.”

    As you know, many of us don’t know what we really want. I consider myself among them. I frequently think I know what I want… until I get it, that is. Better to admit that you don’t really know what you are in the mood for, head to the buffet and proceed to sample. You may find something to your liking.

    As for your desire to be paid to write what you want, most of us bloggers will never achieve that. We are excellent writers and we display our craft daily or weekly. No one is going to pay for the milk when they can have the cow for free. I used to deal with this by refusing to give my work away for free. At some point, I discovered that enjoy writing more when I share it with the world than when it sits quietly on my hard drive. I understand enough about economics to know that no one is going to throw money at me for what they can get for free. Pragmatism, Matt.

    1. You, good sir, don’t need a lot of help being a good man. You strike me as a VERY good, decent human being. And you have your priorities straight.

      I appreciate that.

      But you do need me for one little thing…

      Dream bigger. And believe in yourself.

      Your pragmatism is this case is my pessimism. People make money writing all the time. I have a salary and several bookshelves full of words to prove it.

      If you want to make money writing, I’d suggest you not run around believing and telling others that it can’t be done.

  9. This is great Matt. You’re touching a nerve with me. I think many of us are at that “examination” point in our lives at this time of year, even those who are not in crisis (there are some people who aren’t, right? I’ve heard that…)
    Well done. Thank you.

    1. It’s been one of the most eye-opening realizations of my life. All this stuff I wanted. The jobs. The houses. The cars. The toys. I didn’t actually want things. I just like the feeling of achievement. Achievement makes me happy. I’m really starting to focus in on substantive things.

      And I while I agree so much with my friends here who have said lists are bullshit if ignored, I maintain that really focusing, getting specific by writing it down, then taking daily steps is how we achieve things.

      Most people will fall during their climbs. A lot of them will stay at the bottom crying and quitting.

      And I’m saying the only place happiness lives is at the top. Fake happy lives in the sex and drugs and drinking and parties and toys and vacations and whatever else. And the weak mask the pain with those things. Real happy is only achieved by doing the really hard stuff and remaking ourselves.

  10. Hi Matt,

    You probably already know this, but writing out a specific list and sharing it is the first step in making your wants a reality. With number 1, write out specifically the woman you want to attract. Her age, hair and eye color, weight, profession, how she wakes up, holds a conversation, loves your son. Be as specific about her as you can. Go further and create her family, where you want to meet her, etc. I’m all about attracting what I want in my life. I have found, the more I concentrate on what I want the more likely I make room to make the steps necessary to add those things in my life.

    Believe it or not, I caused at least half, if not more of the trouble in my marriage. I am owning up to the situation I find myself in now. I am ditching the whoa is me mentality and creating action through baby steps to find ways to better my situation, today. That is the best any of us can do. Put blinders on, do not look back, take stock of the situation today and move forward. Keep the faith. And keep the power of lists. You are well on your way! Enjoy the journey.

    1. Thank you.

      I think they’re extraordinarily powerful tools. But our minds are easily distracted. So they must be somewhere where we see them all the time. Daily reminders of where we want our focus to be.

      And you’re right. The details–the specifics–are really important. 🙂

  11. On your point one… what you can do is to continue to learn to love an trust yourself first. That is a very attractive quality. Allow yourself to be open to the opportunity even if you don’t even see a glimpse of possibility – you might be surprised!

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  13. Blogging is such a powerful tool in self-discovery. It allows us- in an open forum- to put our ideas, desires, wishes out there into the big, amazing world which somewhat holds us accountable, but also gives us an outlet to hear from others who’ve walked similar paths or need a partner in crime. Last year for my New Year’s Resolution I said instead of “resolving” to do this, that, and the other I was resolving to not be something: Number 2. Beneath God, we have to be first. This is so hard as a parent, but when we focus on cleaning up our side of the street first, naturally our children’s part of the street gets better. It isn’t any “place” we reach and then say, “Hey, I got there!” It evolves, as do mountains. And then we move along from there. It’s baby steps and not getting discouraged when we fall, because we will, we do, but then we get back up. Accepting the process helps us help others which feeds our souls. Gosh, I sound preachy and don’t mean to (sorry)…I’ve just been on this journey for a while now, I guess! XOXO-SWM

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