Happiness Is A Process Not An Achievement 1

footprints in the sand

I’ll be happy as soon as…

It’s a phrase I’m sure we’ve all heard. It paints happiness as a destination we’re all traveling toward but can’t quite reach. Happiness isn’t a destination though, it’s a journey. Being happy isn’t a one-time accomplishment you can carry with you forever. It’s not the same as a high school diploma. It’s a constant series of experiments and adjustments, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Then, as life changes, adjusting what works for you, over and over. It’s a conscious and continuous process which ebbs and flows.

I’m either happy or I’m not.

This idea of ‘being happy’ frustrates many people. I’m not happy today, there must be something wrong with me. I haven’t reached the destination yet. I’ll keep working at it and maybe tomorrow I’ll finally start being happy. This is a framing which compares happiness to a light switch – it’s either yes or no. But intuitively, we should know that’s not really how it works. 

Happiness is less binary and more along a continuum. Some days we feel good, others not so much. Instead of striving to be happy, it makes more sense to work toward being a little happier each day. This allows us to build increasing happiness in small, incremental steps. When happiness is an ongoing process instead of a destination we can always work toward it without waiting. This is a closer reflection of the reality of life.

I’ll be happy in the future, though!

When you place your happiness at the mercy of a future event, you run the risk of never getting there. What if the promotion you’re waiting for never happens? Are you just going to accept that you’ll never be happy? This doesn’t seem like a particularly productive or realistic framework. We have to create happiness in each individual day, because you never know what the future holds.

Viewing happiness as a process also prevents us from looking to far off future events as our sole source of happiness. For those of you have have had a similar experience, did the one event you were waiting for result in your ‘on’ state of happiness? Or was it a temporary bump, which quickly returned to baseline? My guess is the latter. If you strive to be a little happier each day, you can’t see graduating in 4 years as your ticket to happiness. You can work on something today, though. You’ll find this is far more effective anyway!

Be A Little Happier Each Day

Viewing your happiness as a process means you never have anything to beat yourself up about. If you weren’t happy yesterday, you can still be happier tomorrow. On top of that, being a little happier means you can focus on a few things at a time instead of every possible problem in life. Smaller tasks are more actionable, more realistic. It might not make you ‘happy’ instantly but you’ll be moving in the right direction. Over time, these small adjustments will add up to huge results.   

Thinking we can be in a constant ‘on’ state of happiness is unrealistic. Problems will come up, frustrations happen, ect. The best we can do is build habits and lifestyles that allow us to be happier and happier as we grow and change. Even then, a major upset can reset the balance. Because of this we need to constantly be ready to change and focus on the small next step ahead of us. A little happier each day.


  1. What is one thing you can change in your life today to be a little happier?


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