Don’t try to be happy. While the freedom to pursue happiness is guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, the goal of actually being happy is a destructive end. There are two reasons pursuing happiness is destructive:

a. As humans, we overweight the short-run and underweight the long-run. This can lead us to clearly destructive behavior like overindulgence in alcohol, drugs, food, and other vices.

b. It can cause us to think that we should be happy all the time. That means we discount the value of pain, discomfort, assorted difficulties, and even periods of calmness where we aren’t really happy or unhappy.

So the idea that we should pursue happiness implies we should try to string together moments of elation. You might disagree, and say ‘that’s a narrow definition of ‘happy.’ That’s basically my point – I have found it personally more valuable to reframe the notion of happiness as ‘durable fulfillment’ instead of ‘elation’ or ‘joy.’

Durable fulfillment is about purposefully overweighting the long-run, and accepting more discomfort in the short-run. Durable fulfillment is about building a satisfying life, filled with accomplishments and experiences that grow the whole person. This is difficult – we have to fight our short-run desires and use our willpower to  pursue our long-term goals. That’s tiring, but it gets easier over time. Recent research has shown that willpower is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. But, every day the willpower gets worn down as you use it, so by the end of a day, there’s not much left in the tank. But I digress.

Durable fulfillment is about building a full life. If that’s what you want, then you have to figure out what accomplishments you want to have. Keep in mind, your desired accomplishments may change over time, and that’s okay. As we evolve, so to do our goals. But to be fulfilled, we have to work towards our goals. In my view, target goals should be across the four major aspects of internal life. I got these from James Altucher, but they make sense. The four aspects of life are physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual.

1. Physical – to quote Queen – “keep yourself alive!” I don’t mean survive, I mean alive! Good (for you) food, exercise, and engagement with your physical surroundings. Feel the texture of the world around you – get into nature, walk around in your bare feet, smell the outdoors. Just get out in the world.

2. Emotional – Cut out negativity. Eliminate or minimize contact with chronically negative people. If some project of yours doesn’t work out, find the lessons you can learn and come back stronger than before. Take care of your emotional energy. That might mean recharging nightly – tea, good book, warm bath, whatever fits the bill for you.

3. Spiritual – I think it’s beneficial to at least recognize that there is something bigger than yourself in the world. I have no opinion on religion, although I think it’s better to go with a constructive rather than destructive religion.

4. Intellectual – The developmental value of mental challenges is critically important. In fact, most of us probably are in fields of endeavor that are intellectual in nature. It’s important to develop both depth and breadth. Depth will expand your skill set in a narrow area, and generally make your labor more valuable to others. This yields greater satisfaction in your own work, and usually higher pay. Breadth is about knowing a little more about a lot of different things. Finding out more about fields outside of your own field helps you to see the world in new lights. Can you imagine now having discovered liberty?

I believe pursuit of durable fulfillment by staying healthy and growing across these four areas is a more desirable and healthier goal than happiness. But maybe I’m just calling happiness something else, and everyone already gets this. In any case,