I was struck by something when I watched Barack Obama’s second inauguration (well, his 4th actually!) No, it wasn’t Beyonce scything through the Star Spangled Banner, but a phrase he used more than once in his speech…
It was Obama’s second inauguration speech – it was actually his 4th inauguration, which is going some since US Presidents can only serve 2 terms! For his first one there was an error made so it had be done again the next day, and for the second one, deadlines meant he had be sworn in on a Sunday, and had the public one on the Monday.
The phrase that caught my attention comes from the Declaration of Independence, but in the areas I love to write about – goal achievement, self improvement and personal development – it’s a phrase laced with hidden danger.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Those are inalienable rights of all humans according to that declaration, and Obama was using them to emphasise what the United States should stand for.
Plenty has been written about America’s attitude to right to life, and right to liberty, but I want to talk about the pursuit of happiness.
It could be said that the pursuit of happiness sums up the American dream – someone can turn up on America’s shores with no more than a dollar in their pocket, and the US system of capitalism and reward for hard work can take that same person however high or far they want to go.
Job prospects, marriage, children, freedom of speech, the whole works.
Sounds great, right?
Well, yes, it sounds great, but it’s when I consider ‘pursuit of happiness’ from a different angle that my point comes to mind…
If you are pursuing happiness, it implies two thing –
Firstly it implies that happiness will appear when you cross some finish line in the future – you’ll be happy when you get that car, you’ll be happy when you get that promotion, you’ll be happy with that fat pay check.
I’ve never been a fan of having ‘happiness’ as one of your goals to go after, in fact I say you *shouldn’t* do it, and the reason brings me to the second thing implied by pursuing happiness, which is that you aren’t happy now!
I do accept that people might say to me that they are happy, that their pursuit of happiness is more about maintaining it rather than creating it.
Yes, ok, but I don’t think that reflects the majority, who think that happiness *does* come in the form of material possessions, that happiness *does* only come at some point in the future.
Happiness is a state of mind, and can be enjoyed right now!
I know we all have our problems, frustrations and obstacles, and some people do have real hardship, but if you are reading this online, then you are in a far better position than vast swathes of people in the world.
Don’t forget the abundance you have right now – a roof over your head, food on the table, fresh water, electricity, money coming in, and so on. Allow yourself to be happy right now.
So, was Obama wrong to mention the pursuit of happiness? No, he didn’t come up with that declaration back in the 1770s, and happiness is not a bad concept to hold up. Be careful though, that your efforts to go after happiness don’t obscure your view of the happiness already there to enjoy today.
That’s it for today – do let me know what think!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. I write about happiness often in my motivational book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’ – you can read it on your kindle right now!
P.P.S. You might also enjoy another article – Goal Achievement – Is Step Number 23 Keeping You Stuck?