Happiness: Should It Be Our Goal? – Grow Great Daily Brief #202 – May 9, 2019

Today, let’s continue this week’s focus on our mental health. Unlike physical health, we tend to think mental health is for other people, not us. We’re not unhealthy mentally. Or so we think (even though we give it hardly any considerations). We don’t always take care of ourselves like we should.

Few topics get as much attention as happiness. Seems everybody is chasing it. You’d think all this pursuit would enable more of us to figure out how to achieve it. I know why it’s so elusive.

We’re chasing the wrong thing.

“Don’t worry, be happy” was not just a monotonous song, but it’s empty advice. Like telling the obese person to “be thin.” Or the poor to “be rich.”

Funny thing is the more society focuses on chasing happiness the more elusive it seems to be. We only seem to be elevating our anxiety over our failure to reach the goal. What if happiness isn’t to blame? What if we’re looking at the wrong goal?

Don’t you want to be happy? Of course. Everybody wants to be happy. And we experience happiness at moments of our life. There’s the rub. Moments.

That’s what happiness is. It’s a moment. Chasing a moment is like trying to bottle a sensation. You feel it, then it’s gone. Wonderful while it lasted, but temporary. Not sustainable.

Addiction is fueled by such sensations. It’s destructive. Largely because it’s unrealistic and fake masking reality that needs to be faced.

Does this mean chasing happiness isn’t worthwhile? Of course not. But it may mean that devoting ourselves to our own happiness may set us up for failure and selfishness. You’re not likely looking at it that way though.

A problem with personal happiness is the imposition it can put on others. But it depends on how you more deeply define happiness. Many people view happiness as doing what they most want to do.

We’re in the car heading for some restaurant. Nobody quite knows where…yet. “Where would you like to go?” I’m asked. Not having any preference I submit, “I don’t care. You decide.” I mean it.

Somebody picks a place I’m not terribly fond of. My preference would have been elsewhere. But am I now unhappy? No, not really.

We’re seated and folks decide to buy appetizers. “What would you like?” I’m asked. Again, I don’t have a strong preference. “Whatever you guys want would be fine!” They order some type of dip that wouldn’t have made my top 10 list of favorite appetizers. Am I unhappy? No, not really.


Because while I have a personal preference, I don’t care about it enough to impose on others. It just doesn’t matter that much to me. And I can say I’m honestly happy that these other folks got what they most wanted at the time. That’s a happiness I’m opting for over being able to eat what I may prefer.

Yes, it’s a small thing, but I’ve seen grown adults pitch a wide-eyed fit over lesser things. In fact, I’ve seen adults behave poorly in restaurants when they didn’t get their way. Their happiness trumped everything else. Colossally selfish.

I’m all in favor of pursuing happiness. I’m just encouraging you to rethink how you may view your personal happiness. Does your happiness involve helping others get their way – achieve their preferences – or does it always revolve around you getting what YOU want? There’s nothing noble about the latter.

Translate that to the happiness that may be evading you at work. If you find yourself less than happy – discontent even – then I’d urge you to reconsider some things. Namely, I’d urge you to think about how you lead and serve others.

The path forward in building a more successful business is your ability to help other people get what they most want. This isn’t limited to your customers. It includes your employees or team members. How determined are you in helping them get what they most want? Your answer can determine your self-satisfaction and happiness.

That’s why happiness as a goal is complicated. It depends on how you define happiness and how you view your service to others.

I hate the term servant leadership because it presupposes there’s another valid kind. It’s redundant. True leadership is serving others. It’s not about you. It’s about the people you lead.

Toward that end, I think happiness should be a goal when leaders derive pleasure from helping others achieve what they most want. Honestly, I think a better term for us to pursue as leaders is JOY. Joy is more lasting, deeper.

While I may say letting others decide where to eat makes me happy, that’s not entirely true. What is true is that it gives me joy. It makes me feel good knowing that I prefer others get to go where they’d like to go. No, it doesn’t make me noble or self-sacrificing. Not really. It just means I’m perfectly willing and happy to surrender what might suit me personally so others can be more suited to their preference.

You’re either approaching your life and work as though you’re the center of the universe, or you’re approaching it as though others are. That viewpoint will determine whether happiness is a suitable and honorable goal.

Find happiness in doing for others what only you can do. Your superpower as a leader is your willingness to help them in ways that may be unique to only you. Find happiness in doing that work!

Be well. Do good. Grow great.


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