Why I Don’t Just Want to Be Happy — And the Myth of Happiness

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Yesterday, I talked on Facebook Live about happiness. Is happiness a myth? Is consistent happiness the goal? Is it realistic—or even possible?

We hear so much about happiness out there. But I’ve really been questioning a lot of it. For the last few weeks, I’ve been meeting up with old friends, new friends, and relative strangers and just having coffee (well, tea for me). I’ve been listening to people’s stories—all different people from all walks of life. In person.

And consistently—almost every single time—the topic of happiness has come up. And this pressure to achieve a certain set of outside circumstances that might make them happy. And the levels of shame and isolation for not reaching those milestones. For moving back home with their parents or not having a successful business or not having an Instagram-worthy relationship.

At least for me, that’s not how it worked at all. Despite the endless messages from society.

The first place I go to even begin thinking about a topic is context. Etymology. I wanted to know what happiness means. And it turns out happiness, from Norse and Proto-Germanic roots, means, “lucky, favored by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances.”

Smack. Bam. Right there in its historical context is this idea that happiness is conditional. And by conditional, I of course mean influenced by conditioning. Because that’s what teaches us if having a “dream home” is a good thing or a bad thing. We aren’t born with that. The dichotomy of shame and praise is conditioned into us.

I mean, life is life. Some days, I’m going to be over-the-moon ecstatic. Some days, shit’s going to hit the fan, and I’m not going to be too happy. But I can always feel fulfilled. I can always feel me. Regardless of external conditional circumstances. Because my point or reality—my subjectivity—is internal.

Conditioning is the root of conditionality. And we can’t unconditional love ourselves or our lives with conditioning. So, for me, the journey to my own subjectivity is one that’s inherently de-conditioning. I’m constantly pulling out the conditioning of what I was taught to be true to instead find out who I am.

Happiness might be conditional and seemingly objective, but true fulfillment is unconditional and subjective. And unpacking our own subjectivity gives us access to that place.

Now, of course context matters. Of course, without basic safety, nourishment, and human rights, it’s hard for anyone to be fulfilled. But I’m constantly amazed by how much I have less in some ways than I had years ago, and yet I feel so much more fulfilled by it.

Because I thought for so long that if I just had my desires met, I’d be really happy. I thought that I needed to travel the world a lot. And live in a big home. And have this high-paying job. And that’s all well and good. None of that’s bad. But it wasn’t really me. It was conditioning I had internalized.

And as I’ve pulled out that conditioning and realized that satisfying my desires isn’t the goal. Because desires are temporary, fleeting, and quite frankly easily hijacked by conditioning.

They’re content. Things like having a gorgeous house or great relationship. But what I wanted was context. I wanted the thing that gives personal significance to all of that content. I wanted to know who I was and why some things made me happy while others didn’t. Why in some moments I was on top of the world and then I switched within minutes—seemingly without reason.

I wanted to know me.

Desires will only teach us what we want in a moment. We can achieve them or fail them. They’re still conditioning.

But subjectivity teaches us who we are. And every step deeper into it helps us unpack ourselves more fully. We can’t fail at being ourselves. Because subjectivity includes our light and shadow—our wounds, trauma, pain, intuition, perspective, and experiences.

It’s all of us.

For me, happiness isn’t the goal. At least not the most literal etymological definition of advantageous circumstances. You know, Garrett and I walked down the aisle to a song about the “hell and paradise here on Earth.” Because I want it all. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want a real marriage. A real life. And I want to get to be me through all of it.

Unconditionally. No matter what happens.

For the rest of this week, I’ll be talking about happiness more deeply on Facebook Live around 1:30pm EDT in mini masterclasses, including today. And then, on Friday, Sherri and I will have an hour-long, big unpacking conversation in our Sacred Branding.™ Facebook group. You’re, of course, welcome to join us.

You deserve to know yourself. Will you probably be fulfilled from it? Maybe even happy more often than not? Sure, I can personally attest to that. But those are just tangential side effects. Because knowing yourself that fully—knowing your subjectivity—is a gift far greater than just happiness.

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