The problem with the statement “I just want to be happy” and what goals and values add to your life.


It is common to hear ‘I just want to be happy’ when you interact with people on what they want when they are going through difficult moments in life.

But the idea of happiness has been hijacked over the years by an elusive fairytale of constant pleasure and satisfaction with life.

You don’t have to look far on social media to come across a wave of posts telling you to ‘be positive, stay happy, eliminate negativity from your life.

We are given the impression that happiness is the norm and anything outside of that could be a mental health problem.

We are also sold the idea that if we can achieve material wealth, happiness will arrive and stick around.

But humans are not built to be in a constant happy state.

We are built to respond to the challenges of survival.

Emotions are a reflection of our physical state, our actions, beliefs, and what is going on around us. All of those things are constantly changing.

Therefore, a normal state is one that constantly changes too.

According to Russ Harris emotions are like the weather.

They are constantly moving and changing, sometimes predictably, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly.

Emotions are always a part of our experience.

But, just like the weather, some moments are pleasant and others are hard to endure.

At other times, there is nothing distinct enough for us to easily describe.

When we recognize the nature of human experience in this way, it becomes clear that anything being sold to us with the promise of happily ever after cannot live up to its promise if happiness means the absence of any of the less pleasant emotions.

We can live a happy and fulfilling life and still experience the full range of emotions that come along with being human.

Buying into the idea that happiness means constant positivity can leave us believing we have failed when we feel down.

We feel like we are getting something wrong, or we feel afraid that we may have a mental health problem.

Thinking in that way then makes that dark cloudy day even darker.

Sometimes we are not happy because we are human and life is difficult a lot of the time.

Things that bring us the most happiness in our lives bring much more than happy feelings.

The best example is the people in our lives.

Your family, who mean the world to you, may upset you the most when they get things wrong.

Parents feel a profound sense of meaning in their roles and intense feelings of love and joy.

But they also feel great pain and fear and shame at times too.

So happy moments are just one flower in a very large bouquet.

You can’t have one without the other. Emotions come as a whole bunch.

Understanding is a necessity.

Some people start to feel lost in life.

They can’t put their finger on a specific problem but they know they don’t feel right.

It’s hard to get excited about anything or apply themselves to tasks with any real energy or enthusiasm.

Without a clear and specific problem, they find it hard to problem-solve and work out which direction to take.

It’s not so much that they are struggling to achieve their goals.

They are not sure which goals to set in the first place, and whether any of them feel worth it.

In many instances, this is associated with a disconnect from core values.

Life has pulled them away from what matters most to them.

Working to get real clarity on your values can do several things.

It can give a guide on the direction you want to head in, and an idea of the types of goals that will be most fulfilling and purposeful.

It can help you to persevere through painful points in life and, crucially, to remind yourself that even when times are hard, you are on the right path.

What values and goals add to our lives?

Values are not the same as goals.

A goal is a concrete, finite thing that you can work towards.

Once you achieve it, that is the endpoint.

Then you have to look for the next goal.

A goal might be passing an exam, ticking everything off your to-do list, or running a personal best.

Values are not a set of actions that can be completed.

Values are a set of ideas about how you want to live your life, the kind of person you want to be, and the principles you want to stand for.

If life was one complete journey, then a value would be the path you choose to follow.

The path never comes to an end.

It is one possible way of making your journey, and living in line with your values is the conscious effort you make to always stay close to that path.

The path is full of hurdles you have to jump over along the way.

These are the goals you commit to when you choose this path.

Some hurdles may be large and you’re not even sure if you can get over them.

But you give it your best shot because staying on this path is so important to you.

There are plenty of other paths with other hurdles and challenges.

But choosing to stick to this one and tackle whatever comes along gives all those events and actions meaning and purpose.

It is the intention of choosing this path that enables you to push through barriers that you might never have tried otherwise.

So, you may work hard to pass lots of exams in your lifetime, because one of your values might be lifelong learning and personal growth.

Values are the things you do, the attitude you do them with, and why you choose to do them.
They are not who you are and who you are not.
They are not something you have or have achieved or completed.

Sometimes we drift away from living in line with our values.

That might be because life happens and we get pulled in different directions.

Or it could be because we didn’t have a clear sense of what our values were.

As we mature and develop throughout our lives, our values may change too.

We develop independence and move away from home, we learn from the people we encounter, learn more about the world, maybe have children, maybe don’t.

For all of these reasons, it is a valuable practice to engage in regular evaluation of what matters most.

That way, we can make conscious decisions to redirect if we need to and ensure we stay close to that path so that life can feel meaningful.

But look at this;

When we don’t have clarity on our values, we can set goals based on what we think we should be doing, others’ expectations, or a guess that once we achieve that goal, we will finally be enough, we can finally relax and be happy with who we are.

One major flaw with that is it puts rigid parameters around the conditions in which you can be content and happy.

It also places life satisfaction and happiness all in the future.

I am not suggesting that you should never set yourself goals.

But when you work towards something, it helps to be clear on why you are working towards it and to recognize that all the good in life is not waiting at the endpoint of goals, but in the process, we go through along the way.

Rather than hoping things are better in the future, what if life could be meaningful and purposeful now, by living in line with what matters most to you?

You still get to strive towards change and achievement with all your strength, but you are not waiting for a meaningful life, you already have it.

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