Paradoxically, when we seek happiness as the ultimate state, we’re destined to be disappointed. Absent unhappiness, how would we even recognize it? If we’re fortunate, happiness is a place we visit from time to time rather than inhabit permanently. As a steady state, it has the limits of any steady state: it’s not especially interesting or dynamic.
To seek happiness as a permanent state derives from two primitive evolutionary impulses: avoiding pain (which we associate with danger and the risk of death) and seeking gratification (which helps ensure that our genes get passed on).
But it also turns out that pain and discomfort are critical to growth, and that achieving excellence depends on the capacity to delay gratification.
When we’re living fully, what we feel is engaged and immersed, challenged and focused, curious and passionate. Happiness — or more specifically, satisfaction — is something we mostly feel retrospectively, as a payoff on our investment. And then, before very long, we move on to the next challenge.
Fantastic read. I love pretty much anything Tony Schwartz publishes.