Purpose over happiness | Pakistan Today

Purpose over happiness

  • Which is healthier to strive for?

Privileged young people like myself in their mid-twenties and early thirties often talk about their lack of contentment. The younger generation is much more comfortable reaching out to their peers if they are struggling, which is the first part of the process. However, I find that many young individuals are missing two important attributes. Firstly, it seems that we have a very low tolerance for pain. We are so afraid of feeling any kind of emotional discomfort, because the public portrayal of the ideal state is happiness, which is completely counterproductive. If we constantly purse gratification and shut down the rest of our emotions, we will not be prepared for the harsh realities that await us all. Secondly, we are not willing to create purpose to diminish our negative headspace. Verbally expressing our dissatisfaction is great, but the next steps are equally crucial. We have to learn, and not be afraid to genuinely feel pain, and then create meaningful goals to quell the pain.

If we seek to strive for happiness over meaning, we will not be able to take the vicious blows life delivers. Making happiness the centre point of life trivialises our experiences. Human beings are built to go through a wide range of emotional states, because the world we live is so complex that we need to be able to handle the multi-varied challenges that life tests us with. Our survival depends on our ability to adapt to various situations. If people always expect satisfaction in every encounter, they will find it very difficult to navigate circumstances that involve empathy or tragedy.

Not engaging with our inborn emotions and responses means that we are choosing not to be fully functional human beings. People who do not forthrightly confront and activate their emotions put their mental health at serious risk. Because life involves suffering and disappointment, our philosophy cannot be based on just one feeling, especially a feeling that is not suited for that moment. If we are intent on just being in a state of satisfaction, we will never be able to achieve depth or meaning, and without that we cannot deal with personal or outside suffering in an effective manner, hence it will leave us feeling resentful and self-critical.

Human beings are built to go through a wide range of emotional states, because the world we live is so complex that we need to be able to handle the multi-varied challenges that life tests us with

When it comes to creating purpose, it is essential that we make a conscious effort to create meaningful goals. Each step of a goal we seek to achieve creates satisfaction, which reduces our negative emotions. Actively pursuing a goal and making yourself busy leaves you little time to dwell on negative thoughts. In time, we will find that pushing for purpose and meaning over happiness, will actually teach us how to be happy. When feelings of happiness come about, we have to learn how to fully embrace it, and be grateful that we have it in that moment. It is crucial that the younger generation spends more time searching for purpose. If we feel passionately about our goal or discipline, and end up mastering it, we stand a better chance of achieving contentment.

There is no doubt that there are several distractions that keep us from achieving our goals. With the advancement of technology, it has now become so easy to gain instant, but temporary gratification. It has hindered our drive to work towards meaningful goals. Without meaningful goals, it will be very difficult to find purpose, and if we do not have purpose, it will be extremely challenging to attract and bask in moments of true happiness.