“If a person is engrossed in pleasure, how will they resist toil, danger, want, and all of the ills which surround us and threaten our lives? How will they bear the sight of death or pain?” – Seneca
There is an idea, a life philosophy that is as pernicious as it is prevalent in society today. The idea that happiness is somehow in and of itself a good goal for our lives.
The bothersome bit about happiness as a life goal is that happiness is an emotional state predominated by positive emotions. Sometimes in life, often in fact, we are going to encounter events and times where positive emotions would be the wrong experience. During these times, experiencing positive emotions would be a pretty big clue that there is something seriously wrong and we need professional help.
A well rounded life experiences a range of emotional states. Many of them are predominated by negative emotions. Anxiety, pain, fear, and confusion would be just a few of the emotional states that might accompany events we look back at someday and see as pivotal and important events in our own lives. Events we wouldn’t trade for all the pleasant emotions in the world.
Further more, setting happiness as our goal in life robs us of our ability to cope when things do go sideways on us. And they will go sideways on us. Life is going to knock us flat on our backs a few more times before the ride is over. If our goal is happiness, we might see ourselves as failures during those times. If we see ourselves as being open to full well rounded lives, we will see these as opportunities to grow.
virtus fortis vocat