What If You Did It This Way?

Comments 12


Maybe he thought I was being a silly liberal hippy when I said all anyone really wants is to be happy.

The conversation had gotten deep because we don’t like talking about superficial things unless sports or movie lines are involved.

We hadn’t seen each other in five years, and we were doing the same thing we always do—standing around drinking beer, having a What does it all mean? conversation peppered with laughter outbursts.

He didn’t agree with my take. We often debate things.

I’m not sure why he disagreed. He never said, and we didn’t get much further in that conversation because beer.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Am I missing something? Does something else drive us?

No. This is the thing.

No matter how you choose to philosophically slice it up, everything you do in life is a means to an end. You are pursuing something you consciously or sub-consciously believe is bringing you happiness.

Maybe you like making money. Maybe you like travelling. Maybe you like staying home with kids. Maybe you like walking your dog. Maybe you like competing in sports. Maybe you pray often and live by a very specific spiritual or religious code. Maybe you like being helpful and serving others. Maybe you enjoy movie watching. Maybe you like drugs and partying with friends. Maybe you like exercising. Maybe you like eating healthy foods. Maybe you like not doing that.

Whatever. I don’t care.

What I do care about is understanding why things happen. I want to understand what motivates me.

I want everyone to be able to answer the question: “What do you want out of life?”

And I want everyone to understand the most-correct answer to that question, regardless of our differences and the various details, is: “I want happiness.”



1. delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing:

to be happy to see a person.

2. characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy:

a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.


Some people get bent out of shape over the word “happy.” They think it’s a lightweight word and concept, because ice cream, TV shows, roller coasters and vigorous bedroom romps can make us “happy” for a while before everything that truly matters in life brings you back to your baseline state of being.

And to them I say: FINE. Let’s use the word Content. Because that’s what I REALLY mean. 



1. satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

There is not one decision you will make today that can’t ultimately be traced back to your pursuit of happiness (or, if you prefer: contentment).

“But, Matt! Going to work doesn’t make me happy! I do it because I MUST!”


You go to work because you’ve thus far not discovered a more effective way to make money. And you want that money because you want to pay for food, clothing, shelter and fun weekend activities. You do it because it makes your parents proud and you care what they think. You do it because all your friends have jobs and you believe that’s just what people do after high school and college!

We want our parents to be proud of us. We want clothes and food and roofs over our heads. We want to have money to support our children. We want people to look at us and believe we’re successful.

We want approval.

We want status.

We want to feel good.

It’s why I do everything.

It’s why you do everything.

We Get It! What’s Your Point?

Being an adult is really hard. Every day I get a new note from someone sad or angry or broken because their marriage is in trouble, or because they can’t figure out how to get out of their own way and be the person they aspire to.

I used to think I wanted big houses and nice cars and great sex and fun beach-party buzzes.

And I do sort of want those things! I think that’s okay.

But after being gutted from the inside following my broken marriage and divorce, I learned quickly that none of that stuff matters.

The man driving the ’91 Jetta with many friends happy to see him at tonight’s party will ALWAYS be living better than the millionaire CEO driving the Bentley whose company is about to lay off 5,000 workers, while his wife sleeps with her tennis coach, and he questions all his friendships, because everyone always wants something from him.

When you’re in the throes of depression and EVERYTHING hurts, you learn the truth: Nothing is as valuable as feeling peace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to enjoy life without it.

There are things in life that bring me joy. Real, authentic joy.

And then there are bullshit superficial things that make me feel good for 10 minutes but don’t matter after.

How good might life be if everything was about the pursuit of authenticity? Of contentment? Of happiness?

It was a good What does it all mean? conversation my friend and I were having.

The kind of conversation not enough people are having.

The thing you’re doing right now. Why are you doing it?

Something puts your soul at ease.

And another thing makes you feel like a kid again.

And that other thing over there sets your heart on fire.

Go do those things.

12 thoughts on “What If You Did It This Way?”

    1. I did a bad job couching “happiness” as a destination rather than a state of being all along the journey.

      I just write this stuff without thinking and hit publish, sometimes.

      So much of what it means to feel good and be happy is to learn how to feel good and choose happiness.

      Step one: Say thank you. Every day. And mean it.

      I appreciate you reading and commenting. I’m grateful for your time.

  1. “There are things in life that bring me joy. Real, authentic joy.

    And then there are bullshit superficial things that make me feel good for 10 minutes but don’t matter after.”

    Unfortunately my experience has been that most people mistake the bullshit superficial things as the ones that will make them happy. That’s what they try to pursue.

    The whole YOLO concept is all about instant gratification, ignoring consequences and living in the moment. And somehow that has been sold to a whole generation as the way to be “happy”.

    Contentment and happiness to me is more about slowing down and learning to appreciate what you have right in front of you instead of focusing on what you are missing.

    1. It’s a little too easy, so no one does it.

      But we wake up in the morning and our hearts are still beating. Our loved ones are still alive. Our friends still like us. We have food and shelter and clothes. We can see. We can hear. We have the use of our arms and legs.

      All these things. And there are many people who don’t have those blessings.

      Perspective matters.

      It’s our job to recognize the miraculous value of all the things we take for granted.

      And say Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      I think when you do that every day, you enter the Happy Stratosphere and everything about life gets infinitely more beautiful.

      But I’m just guessing, because this is hard and I haven’t said Thank you today for my hearing, or that I still have all my fingers.

      But I will right now.

  2. i think for “connectors” the contentedness in life is found in connection. happiness is elusive when we are grieving a connection lost… like in divorce or any other broken relationship. maybe at the end of the day that is why true content comes from within. and our only truly successful relationships will happen when we are finally ok with ourselves.

    all this is theoretical, but i hope someday to have proof.

    at the risk of broken recordhood, thank you for always making me think.

    1. Thank you for caring enough to read and think about it. It means a lot to me.

      And frankly, I think it’s a valuable exercise to think beyond the everyday stuff that distracts us all the time.

      I appreciate you reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. I’ll never have a fancy sports car. But, I do have a ’98 Chevy van that starts and runs reliably enough that a 700 mile trip with a heavy load on board is not out of the question. It’s paid for as well– icing on the cake.A roof over my head, food to eat, clothes– maybe not the best but hey, it works– I think Paul had it right. Whether rich or poor, once you learn to be content and to thank God for what you have, you’re on the road to real wealth.

    That van has 560,000 miles on it as of this writing, and runs better than many much newer vehicles. What’s not to like?

  4. I think happiness & contentment in the long run, overall, are innately tied to struggle. Think about it, we are often proudest of or have the most joy surrounding that which we worked to get, that which did not come easily. We value something less if it was handed to us. In say the early days of America the pioneers went to bed at night having fought to survive another day. There was satisfaction in that, a sense of accomplishment. Life felt like it was worthwhile and the proof was in how hard you worked to sustain it.
    I’m not saying we need to fight the wilderness for our basic survival needs but the ease of modern life seems to give rise to a certain sense of dissatisfaction even though the average person has so much. There’s a vague, pervasive sense of What is the point of all this. Our culture tries to tell us stuff will give us worth or momentary pleasures but clearly that is not the case. The negative effects of empty praise on a child’s self-esteem exemplifies this too. At least some portion of real happiness comes from working to achieve something. .. anything. Maybe that’s why the right to “the pursuit of happiness” is built into our nation’s framework instead of just happiness itself.

  5. Ever read The Happy Prince? One of my all time favourites. “they called me the Happy Prince and so I was if pleasure be happiness”. Obviously, it’s not. It’s actually a great example of how fake affairs are. People say how happy they are to their affair partner buy they have zero contentment. In fact it’s a symptom of not being content with their own souls that they cheat in the first place. I am content. I will never have that rush of “Happy” chemical again, probably. But I am content. And as for what it all means, I only have to look at my kids, they are what it’s about.

  6. “Am I missing something? Does something else drive us?”

    A desire to be happy?? That’s very sweet, Matt, but I actually don’t agree at all. Far too often we are actually motivated by a desire to confirm our own biases, to replay our own miserable scripts. We are generally driven more by a desire to create our own suffering and to make ourselves completely miserable. Harsh, but it is what it is.

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