With the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness became an official government mandate, a literal inalienable right. Citizens gained the right to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of their dreams and desires. Whether Thomas Jefferson borrowed this notion from Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Civil Society is irrelevant; what is relevant is the end result. Happiness, though loosely defined and far from guaranteed, became an official pursuit.
Flash-forward to present day America and it is difficult to fully grasp the impact of Jefferson’s monumental mandate. Yes U.S. citizens are still free to pursue the best life possible but the question is, as it always was, is happiness even attainable and, assuming it is, what does that even mean? As is often the case, the answer lies within the each individual and thus that is where the search for happiness must begin.
Start with the person you know best, yourself. Look at your own life, reflect not only on what makes you happy but think about the longevity of it. What makes you happy? Perhaps it’s the love and social connection that friends, family and God can provide but perhaps not. What if your happiness comes from a satisfying, hard-earned career and/or the salary and comfort that comes with it. Or, what if it is the seemingly small but captivating moments that books, film or television can bring? Yes? No? Maybe?
Take another step back. What if happiness is more simple. Can’t happiness be that moment you got a seat on crowded train, finally finished that level on Candy Crush or actually got tickets to a concert you thought was sold out? Happiness is tough to crack because it is as random as those of us that try to quantify it, let alone have the gumption to pursue it. It really could be that simple or, as the TED Talks below implies, there could actually be a science behind it.
For me, happiness is connected to time. Not as a stand alone feature mind you but nothing is as guaranteed to induce happiness as getting, finding, creating and just simply having time. Catching a T, finishing a project early, snow days, fast-forwarding recorded shows and so on and so on and so on. Time allows for the ability to make social connections and accomplish so many things so that having more of it offers the ability to do as Jefferson wrote, pursue happiness.
The X factor with tying happiness to time is technology. With the advent of an always turned on society thanks to continuing technological innovation, happiness has increasingly become attached to the gadgets you have and your ability to use them. Maybe using a smart phone as another appendage is great and improves your life or maybe it is simply a distraction from life itself. Maybe technology, and the millions of apps and social networks, allows you to find that connection you crave or maybe it creates distance from your actual, real-life friends. So many maybes, so little time.
Regardless of your position on technology or time, the simple truth remains that you and only you can determine what makes you happy. And, as a citizen of the world, you have the right to seek happiness so don’t be afraid to pursue it. My best advice, start with what makes you smile and continue in that direction. That, or read lots and lots and lots of cartoons!