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Happiness: Part 1

Estimated Lesson Time: 2 minutes

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson, with the help of others, wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men (I am sure he meant women as well) were endowed with the right to the “pursuit of happiness.” Success, to many people, is simply finding and living a life of happiness. Like success, the definition of happiness cannot come from the dictionary; it must come from inside you. What is happiness to you? If you have not taken the time to define what happiness means to you, what have you spent your whole life pursuing?

Many argue that there is nothing more important in life than happiness. To some, the meaning of life is the pursuit of happiness for oneself, the happiness of loved ones, and the happiness of mankind. Sophocles wrote, “When a man has lost all happiness, he’s not alive. Call him a breathing corpse.”

Many people get sidetracked in the pursuit of happiness by confusing temporary pleasure with happiness. Happiness is not found in “things.” Entertainment and material possessions can bring us amusement and pleasure, but not true happiness. Happiness comes from inside us—it is the way we see our world. In this sense, we create our own happiness from the way we perceive and interpret the events in our own lives. We are responsible for our own happiness. “The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee happiness,” said Ben Franklin, “only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Another famous American named Abraham Lincoln agreed, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Some give up the pursuit of happiness by finding contentment. The two are very different. Contentment is just living life, whereas happiness is celebrating it. John Lancaster Spalding wrote, “If we were all gentle and contented as sheep, we would be as feeble and helpless.”

One can learn to be happy despite one’s current situation. It begins with abandoning any self-pity and wanting to be happy. Sad but true, some people do find pleasure in self-pity and sorrow, but it is pleasure they experience, not happiness, usually from the attention of others. Learning to be happy is about conditioning yourself to see the good rather than the bad, and being grateful for what you do have, not resentful for all the things you don’t have.

In your pursuit of happiness, now and then it is wise to just pause and be happy. The pursuit of anything often causes us to focus on the pursuit itself rather than enjoying that which we are pursuing. Like success, happiness is a journey, not a destination.


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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
  • Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
  • What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)
    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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