Happiness Can Be Dangerous

Happiness Can Be Dangerous

By H4O Project Director, Zak Shellabarger

Happiness is a funny concept because everyone’s definition is different. I can easily recollect several different romantic comedies in which the best friend tells the main character to, “Do whatever makes you happy.” It’s cheesy – but it is honestly how some of us live our lives. We live in this pursuit of happiness at all costs. It is a part of the American dream.

Happiness is simply defined as the “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Which is pretty scary if you ask me. If true happiness is the pursuit of feeling pleasure, then we are in for a world of hurt! If everyone is living to make themselves happy, then our different paths towards happiness are bound to collide. What makes a zebra happy is to just drink some water and eat some grass. What makes the lion happy is to eat the zebra. The same principle can apply on a smaller level with us. Our happiness can be the enemy of someone else’s happiness.

In fact, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to happiness. Often times what can make us temporarily happy makes us miserable in the long-term. Think about those chili-cheese-fries that looked so pleasurable at first. Then think about how you felt four hours later. Sometimes what feels good can be the enemy of what is good. This can be true with food, yes, but also with relationships and professional goals.

Instead, take a tip from Elizabeth Svoboda, author of “What Makes a Hero”. Do something charitable for someone else. Her studies have shown that people find more pleasure and satisfaction in acts of altruism and charity than they do from most other acts. Showing consistent kindness, especially towards those who are unable to give you something in return, can be one of the greatest and most long-lasting sources of happiness.

Be the generation that finds true happiness in the service of others.