The pursuit of happiness is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not just because Will Smith is in it, but mostly because of the message behind the movie. For those not familiar with the pursuit of happiness, it’s a movie about a man who sells these devices for hospitals, which no one seems to want to buy. In his pursuit to sell these devices, he loses everything. He failed to sell any of the devices and that made him broke. Because he is broke his wife has to work long hours, which makes her unhappy with her life and her husband and therefore decides to divorce from him. All this man is left is his son. He and his son are homeless, broke, have little food, and are out of a job. But from that rock bottom, the main character rises in pursuit of his happiness.
The main character starts working hard, and from that rock bottom, he rises to the top. Eventually becoming a millionaire and having a lovely life with his son. A perfect example of the hero’s journey. This movie is based on a true story that happened to a man somewhere in America. This movie always reminded me of our pursuit of happiness, in which we try to find our happiness. It had been an example for me for years, but only now do I realize that this has been a lie.
I didn’t realize this until a few days ago when I was going through a mentally rough time. Where I was desperately trying to find my happiness, but never found it. In that pit, I realized that I had been watching the movie all wrong and that my view on happiness had been all wrong.
Should We Pursue Happiness?
The beautiful thing about this movie isn’t the fact that the main character eventually ends up having millions of dollars. The main point of the movie is to show that he realizes his pursuit of happiness wasn’t leading him anywhere. The moment he realizes this and starts being himself and appreciating all the little things he has. Like his son, and the time they spend together, but also being vulnerable and dedicating himself to a job he would love to have, he starts to climb out of this pit. He doesn’t find happiness, nor is it a pursuit of his happiness. Instead, he creates happiness and realizes it has always been within him.
This message of the movie can quickly be overlooked, at least by me. It’s because all we see is that this main character works his ass off and eventually ends up earning millions of dollars and climbing out of poverty. What I missed along the way is everything this main character does that incrementally improves his state of being. Like his kindness to people. Giving the little things he has to them. He starts to play with his son despite the horrible situation they are in, he even starts to take care of himself and starts learning whilst his son is in school so he can eventually land the job he wants to have. Now those are the small steps we miss, yet are the steps that truly matter.
Although the movie is called the pursuit of happiness which suggests that we are after happiness, the message of the movie is different. It shows us that happiness isn’t something we can go after, in fact, if we go after happiness we start to hold up illusions for ourselves that eventually become our downfall. It’s the entire reason why the main character got broke at the beginning of the movie. His pursuit of something better, to find a future life of happiness had become his downfall. And so we are running towards our demise if we are pursuing our happiness.
So shouldn’t we pursue happiness? I believe we shouldn’t, although the need to be happy is natural and we shouldn’t eradicate that, we should realize that happiness isn’t something we go after. Happiness is something around us and within us already, and realizing this comes from that need to be happy. Although I am encouraging you to not pursue happiness I know many of you will pursue happiness anyway. Whether conscious or unconscious, and the thing is, that will eventually lead you to the realization that happiness can’t be pursued or obtained. If you pursue something long enough and hit enough achievements you’ll eventually realize that it was all an illusion. That even though you achieved success and all the other things you believed would bring you happiness, you will probably find yourself in a place that’s barely different from where you began. That’s because pursuing something always means that we are running after it, never seeing that we already have it.
Let’s say you are in a marathon, if we pursue the runner in front of us we are focused on catching up and eventually overtaking him. When we overtake him or her, we will pursue the next one. Even when we are in the first place we will be able to pursue something which is, to finish first, to stay ahead. When we pursue we are always striving for something that’s in the future, something ahead of us. When we have it, that’s it. Nothing changed. We overtook the one in front of us, we have gone up a rank, but internally we are still the same. So pursuing happiness isn’t the way to obtain happiness, you are probably getting that now. But how will we be happy then? Is it an unobtainable feeling?
Finding Your Keys
Well, it’s like finding your keys. Hence the title of this story. You’ve probably experienced this before. You lost your keys, and you are running around like crazy trying to find them. In your head, you are desperately trying to recall memories of where you left them, or you are trying to find ways to find it. After searching for a while you end up with no keys and feeling lost. You end up searching the same places over and over again, constantly overlooking the same spots. You eventually give up, and at that moment you realize it’s just on the table next to the fruit bowl. You completely missed that because you were so focused on finding the keys that you actually missed the keys.
Happiness is like those keys. The harder you try to find it, the more likely you are to search in the same places, never to find it. The moment you stop looking for it you are most likely to find it. That’s the paradox of happiness. We cannot find it or pursue it. In both cases we miss it. If we pursue happiness we miss that beauty of the process, and if we try to find happiness we completely overlook the fact that it is right in front of us. The only way to be happy is to stop pursuing or searching for it. It’s to start living, instead of striving.
If we pursue happiness we miss that beauty of the process, and if we try to find happiness we completely overlook the fact that it is right in front of us.
Finding your happiness is an illusion we create for ourselves, that blinds us and makes our minds foggy of what actually matters. It’s all the everyday moments that can truly make someone happy. It’s the process of becoming first in a marathon that can bring us joy. It’s enjoying every step we take, and being kind to every runner we overtake. It also relaxing and taking our time when searching for our keys. It’s thoroughly looking and seeing the details that will give us a better chance of finding our keys.
The same goes for happiness. True happiness is found in the enjoyment of the process of life. As well as not being too focused on searching for the beauties of life, but seeing the details of life as they are without judgment. It’s ceasing to seek happiness and starting to see it.
It’s ceasing to seek happiness, and starting to see it.
See Life and Become One With It
Although we all want to find happiness, we are never gonna find it. Just like the keys, we will miss the fact that it’s right underneath our noses. The only two ways we can enjoy life are right here and now. These are actually really practical, it’s not your typical advice like, happiness is already within you, or happiness is all around you. No, it’s both seeing the details of life, and becoming one with life. These are the two practical bits of advice I can give you on happiness. So let’s start with seeing.
- See life’s details
In the movie pursuit of happiness the main character, after some time, starts to notice the beauty of his everyday life. Although he is in a horrible situation, he starts to enjoy the time with his son. He starts to play with him so that his son can live a happy life. That is the true power that’s within all of us. It’s noticing life’s details that are gonna give us instant happiness. Instead of searching for happiness through desperately trying to find beautiful things, or desperately trying to find the keys, we take a different approach and start to see the details of life.
If we start to look for the details of life, like your morning cup of coffee, the smile on your spouse’s face, the sound of grass moving in the wind, or the sun setting in the evening. If we start to notice these details happiness, gratitude, and joy will come naturally. Just like we will find our keys naturally if we stop desperately looking for them.
Happiness is truly all around us, and the practical advice I can give you is to start looking around you and start seeing the details of life. Without the need to be happy when seeing them. Just see them as they are. See the nooks and crannies on a tree, or see the birds create their nests in the branches of the tree. Feel the softness of the carpet. All these things, if we can truly start to use our senses without feeling the need to be happy will naturally make us feel a sense of joy and excitement for life deep within us.
- Become One With The Process
The second practical piece of advice I can give you is to become one with the process. This one is related to pursuing happiness. Whereas the first is about finding happiness, this is about pursuing happiness because I think these are slightly different. Pursuing happiness is like that marathon race. You will never be satisfied if you constantly strive for more. But you will be enjoying the marathon if you start to become one with the process.
By starting to enjoy the process we can start to enjoy every day of our life. To take it back to the simple example of the marathon this means enjoying the race itself. Feeling your feet touch the ground, seeing the supporters on the side of the road, feeling the sun or the rain on your face. And even feeling the pain, and exhaustion in your body. That’s becoming one with the process.
It’s again a paradox to believe that the process of life should only be happy. Just like a marathon is hard work, and is often painful and exhausting, life too has moments of exhaustion and pain. By thinking that we should enjoy the process we too deny that there are moments of pain as well. That’s why I say that it’s about becoming one with the process of life.
In the movie pursuit of happiness, the main character shows this by learning for the job he wants to get. He starts taking care of himself, he starts to be vulnerable and express himself. He even cries before the heads of the company he wants to work for, because he has worked hard, has come from far, has experienced a lot of hardship, but despite it all continued living. He could have made an end to his life, he could have given up, but he didn’t. He knew that there was more to life than the pain he was going through. So he chose to endure it. Feel the pain, and keep growing.
That’s becoming one with the process. It’s thoroughly living through every part of the process of life that will naturally result in happiness as well. It’s embracing life in totality that makes you joyous and excited for it. It’s embracing both the pain and the joy of the marathon. It’s the process of life, all of it, both the hardship and the good times that will make you experience life’s totality and you will gracefully be rewarded with a deep and rooted sense of joy. Both during the good times in your life and the bad times.
All because you will be able to always see the details of life, which are magnificent and magical. And you will become one with the process of life. Embracing everything with open arms, and an open heart, because we never know what’s to come, and what’s to learn. You might not end up winning the marathon but you will have enjoyed it. And although it might take longer for you to find your keys you will have enjoyed the search for them, and feel less stressed and anxious whilst searching.
Happiness isn’t all there is to life, so we shouldn’t focus so much on it. It will arise naturally if we start living our lives completely. If we start to see the details and become one with the process. So that we can end our day, and say Today I Lived! I made the most of it.
Thanks for reading this article, I hope that you will have realized just like I have, that happiness can’t be obtained or found. It’s already within you by realizing these two practical pieces of advice. If you like this content and would love short-form content each day as well, be sure to follow me on Instagram @today.i.lived or join the weekly newsletter I send out. It’s called Rise With The Sun. In this newsletter I send every Sunday I share three thoughts about the beauty of life, in which I appreciate the art of living. So that you can start your week with gratitude, joy, and energy to go for it. You can join at www.todayilived.com/rise/ I hope to see you there. For now, remember that today you live. Make the most of it!