THE BLOG
08/19/2013 02:22 pm ET | Updated Oct 19, 2013

The Age of Happily Pursuing

People harp on the word "happiness" too much. I mean, really... what business does a nine-letter word have bossing people around? We buy countless products to gain this word; date, make up, and break up to find this word; get a job-and quit-to achieve this word; and ultimately live our lives based on this word. What I'm proposing? Stop focusing on it. Stop dreading the purchasing, primping, Match.com-ing, self-criticizing, planning, or perfecting for it. Just live.

Yeah, okay. "Just live"... I've heard that one before. Well, you've heard it, but have you done it? I'm talking really commit. For example, forget critiquing yourself for every little thing that goes wrong. Most likely, it's not your fault... ever heard the expression "making a mountain out of a molehill?" Also, stop worrying that your life won't turn out well. There's a plan mapped out for everyone. The beauty of life is not having access to the Table of Contents.

Okay, okay, what's a 20-year-old got to tell me about living life? Sure, I'm not the wisest, most experienced person on the block. I'm still in college and have only completed two unpaid internships. My repertoire of "real jobs" includes working as a waitress at a 65+ home, and before that as a tie-dye instructor (yes, tie-dye is still cool even in the 2000's). But I'm human. I have feelings, just like you. And I'm slowly but surely understanding that life's happiness lies in pursuing, not in the actual word itself.

A recent issue of TIME magazine focuses on how we actually feel better pursuing happiness rather than "achieving" it. The article says how "there's no guarantee that we'll actually achieve happiness, but we can go after it in almost any way we choose. All by itself, that freedom ought to bring us joy, but the more cramped, distracted, maddeningly kinetic nature of the modern world has made it harder than ever." I can second this. My generation is guilty as charged: We're constantly Instagramming, tweeting, texting, Facebooking, and any other technology-themed "ing" gerund you know. I'm certainly a part of that. So could constant connectivity be the reason why happiness is so difficult to define these days?

Well, the article also says that "what researchers straightforwardly call search activity -- forward-looking behavior that often occurs in pursuit of a specific goal" brings us the most joy. Search activity "simply feels good -- a fact that helps explain why shopping for something is often more fun than buying it, hunting can be more enjoyable than actually bagging your prey, and so many politicians appear to have a better time running for office than holding it." Truth. It's all about the pursuit.

To me, happiness is like a swanky, exclusive club where I'm waiting all night to gain entry. I'm thinking and thinking about the end result-how cool, fun, and hip the club will be once I get inside. Instead, I'm stuck in line, being jostled about by girls in mini-skirts and crop tops, guys with tatted arms, and a cast of characters that's partly annoying, but mostly entertaining. And while I'm in line, I start making conversation with the woman behind me after she compliments my blouse. We laugh at how stupid this whole thing is, and vow to sneak under the red velvet ropes to get burgers-with fries and milkshakes, of course-at a nearby diner.

What we did? We lived, while the others waited to fulfill their idea of what being happy means. Life is like that. You can't constantly worry, prepare, or change the way you do things. You gotta be you, and be the best at being you. This means making the best choices for yourself, and not chalking everything you do up to thinking "Will this make me happiest?" Settle for content. Settle for living in the moment. Settle for enjoying the pursuit.

And for the record, that burger sounds damn good compared to dancing next to sweaty strangers all night.

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