For many years I struggled with how to find happiness; and when I did find what I thought was happiness, it was short-lived. There were moments when I felt happiness, but those moments soon washed-out. Over time I noticed that my happiness was connected to moments, goals, and accomplishments, and when that never-ending cycle of achieve faded, so did my feeling of happiness. This “way of living” is what I call Destination happiness. I became exhausted trying to liveit.
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever wondered whether happiness was really attainable? In this four-part series about happiness we will try to answer these questions and give meaning to our search for the answers.
Many people today seem to have the same epidemic I had. We search for happiness, and when we achieve it, we are still empty.
Destination happiness is an unfounded belief that when we arrive at a certain point in life, we will be happy. For example, we might say to ourselves, “when I get married,” “when I get a different job,” “when I make more money,” “when I have a child,” “when people recognize my talents,” “when I buy a new car,” “when I get a promotion:” the list goes on. It’s not that the things on our list, or the destinations we seek, are necessarily bad and won’tbring us happiness. These achievements can be good things and can bring joy to our lives for sure!
The issue we face, however, is that our happiness begins at a young age and is based on external accomplishments. Parents affirm kids for a great game played and bosses affirm employees for making a sale. Is being human, virtuous, good, and loving not enough? Certainly a raise at work or running a marathon can bring happiness, but like all things, the accomplishment of the momentwears off. Goals are good. I set goals every year and enjoy reaching them; however, let’s acknowledge the role they play in our lives andthe reality of authentic happiness. Where does it come from?
I know, personally, the exhilaration of reaching a goal, and the satisfaction of the apex of an achievement. But I can honestly say that exhilaration and satisfaction never gave me the peace I really desired. In my twenty years of ministry, I have met with many people who struggle with authentic happiness. I see first hand how easy it is for folks to get trapped in the mindset of “destination happiness.” It is common tolose sightof what true and authentic happiness really is. When we seek happiness by reaching a destination, we set our sights on the mirage that is ahead of us, and not the reality that exists…which isthat God’s desire for us is much more than a destination…it’s a gift of Grace that resides within us...it's a peace that goes beyond!
Let's take it a step further and look at one of those tricky destinations!
DESTINATION #1 – SUCCESSFULLY SUCCESSFUL
Success is a big word for us. There are countless books written about success and how to achieve it. Some are good and some are garbage. The reason we are so attracted to the idea of success is that we, as humans, are built to achieve, work, and reach our full potential. Success is a good thing. Our work has meaning! Our lives have a purpose! However, something good can be twisted into something bad, or even into less of a good, if we allow it. However, success can be both a good thing and a huge distraction for us. If we aren’t careful, the lure of success can lead us down the wrong path.
Why is this?
First, there are many questionswe need to answer about success. What is success? How is success defined? Who defines success for us? Is success actually achievable? How do we know when we’ve arrived? Is success really tangible? Why aren’t many “successful” people happy? These are all valid questions when we approach this topic of success that often leaves us searching for more after we reach that apex. I've fallen for the success trap many times. Have you?
In my many years working with people I have spoken with numerous individuals who are very successful, yet they are still unhappy. I have also met many people who are successful and are very happy. So what’s the difference between these two types of people? It's certainly not success that sets them apart.
In getting to know both unhappy and happy successful people we can gain a clear definition of what success really is and, more importantly, what happiness is. For those people who struggle with finding happiness even though they’ve achieved what they define as success, it is clear that their vision of success is stuck in an "outward achievement" view of life…success is a destination. They live by the high they receive in the next move, sale, gig or deal.
Successful and Unhappy
Not long ago, I metwith the CEO of a successful company. He confessed that on one of his buying streaks (And he had many) he bought a car every other day for two weeks straight. These cars all belong to a very nice fleet of automobiles. I don’t want to offend “normal” car drivers like me, for instance; but the cars this man had are the kinds most people dream of having...and I’d love to have just one of them. He told me that he’d buy one and drive it for two days and then feel unhappy again. The pattern continued to other sprees and deals. I, too, have sprees like this, just on a smaller scale.
This man was forced to face the reality that his outward success and achievement wasn’t the solution to the deep question he wrestled with inside himself. He had money and things, and he had climbed to the top position in his company; yet happiness wasn’t there. He longed for happiness and nothing he bought nor the money he amassed filled the void deep inside. He was distracted by the destination of success and was running tirelessly through life seeking meaning.
Successful and Happy
People who have achieved success and have found authentic happiness have fascinating traits.
The first trait we can learn from happy, successful people is that these individuals redefine success for themselves. The world’s view of success is warped and endless but these individuals refuse to let their lives be defined by what others view as success. It's not that external accomplishments aren't a part of their lives, it's that these achievements are secondary to what's most important. These people are able find the good in success and then redefine it with its true and authentic meaning. Thus success for them is redefined. They live their lives (in whatever arena they are in) to full capacity, and use their gifts to serve others. These are CEO’s, doctors, teachers, stay at home parents, retail workers, ministers, oilfield workers, farmers, etc… Their perspective on success and life is clearly not a destination. What is it then?
The second, and most important trait, I see in people who are successful and happy is that success isn’t a destination; it is a posture of living. What I mean is that the frantic search to find or gain success isn’t at the forefront of what they are looking for. Money, although it’s needed to live, isn’t the reason they wake up. Being noticed, although it can feel good, isn’t the reason they work. Interestingly, some of these people make a ton of money, some make very little; yet their happiness is the same, because it’s found in something greater than a destination or a prize...there's something much more!
I, along with these people, eventually landed at a permeant destination that finally rooted my life in the authentic happiness I longed for. It's a destination which is meant for all of us and it is found in a relationship with the God who created us to be happy. It’s in allowing God to define or redefine "who" we are and not "what" we do.
Happiness is found in a deep surrender to the One and Only God whose Grace sustains us through the times when we struggle to find our purpose and our meaning. The happiness we are all meant for is something we can't generate on our own, but can only come through Grace, which is the presence of God in our souls. It's the happiness that comes in knowing we are a "daughter" and "son" of God, defined by his unmeasurable love for us.
This is the happiness I long for, don't you? I encourage you today to place your focus on the only destination that will sustain you and give you true happiness...God alone.