Before writing this post, I searched my Audible books and discovered 13 books with “Happy” in the title. Yet when I think about happiness, nothing has impacted me more than a quote from a holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl’s memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I highly recommend it. He was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived World War 2. The more I think about this quote, two themes stick in my psyche, ensue and unintended side-effect. It isn’t lost on me that I have all these books on happiness, and it is this quote from a “Nazi Death Camp” impacts me the most. Merriam Webster defines “Ensue” as a transitive verb meaning: to take place afterward or as a result.
Synonyms of Ensue: result, follow, develop, stem, spring, arise, derive, evolve, proceed, emerge, emanate, issue, flow, occur, happen, take place, surface, crop up
In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes of a purposeful action that are not intended or foreseen.” — Wikipedia
Viktor Frankl had it right. “Happiness” must not be chased. It must do the chasing. Happiness must chase you and hunt you down. This simple thought puts a smile on my face. What if the secret found here is living in a way that happiness ensues. What if the way I live has a by-product of Joy and Happiness. This peaceful thought puts my soul at rest because it has no caustic comparison and “shoulding” (I should do this, or you should do that). I want happiness to hunt me down, and I want it to chase me for once.
As I reflect on the ways I have missed happiness, it is because I am in hot pursuit of something I don’t have at the moment. Chasing happiness is a mirage or an elusive illusion that will always show up at a future date but never arrive. In these times of pursuing happiness, I have put too much weight on what others say or their opinions. Trying to get everyone to like me is a debt I can’t pay and something I will never control.
There are two sides to caring what people think. One side is trying to get people to think the way you do. I have often wanted to control others’ thinking when it is none of my business. The second is sacrificing who you are by people-pleasing. Usually, for me, this comes from some deep place of unworthiness. Funny, these pursuits leave me empty and searching for more. Maybe it is time to set up some boundaries.
It is time to set up a boundary where I don’t play the victim but humbly accept my life right now. It is time to set boundaries that let the right stuff in and keeps the wrong stuff out. It is time to be me and pursue the things that bring me joy; family, friendships, and meaningful work.
The next time you pursue happiness, think of the wisdom from a Nazi death camp. If happiness can ensue and be an unintended side effect in a death Camp, it can ensue anywhere. So, may your happiness be an unintended side-effect of your greater purpose and a by-product of your service to others. It is time for happiness to ensue. It is time to live in a way that leads to unintended happiness. Enjoy being chased.