You Will Outgrow Your Pursuit of Happiness
When America declared its independence, we embraced our inalienable right to pursue happiness. In some dictionaries, “pursuit” is defined as “to chase with hostility.” It describes a shopping mall around Christmas or the energetic, type-A behavior of a newly-minted MBA. Pursuing happiness, often on the hedonic treadmill of life, is what we do during the first half of our lives.
Questing for contentment defines our second half. Whereas happiness can be a temporary circumstantial high, contentment is a way of being—how we choose to live our life.
It was around my 47th birthday when I felt the shift from happiness to contentment as my true north. We were launching 15 new boutique hotels in 21 months as we faced the early headwinds of the Great Recession. It was clear we were going to be battered by the merciless economy. My old approach to gauging my happiness based upon external circumstances—like revenues and market share—was now a faulty barometer over which I had little control. Somehow, I shifted to a new metric which has defined my life ever since: “On a scale of 1-10, what’s my contentment with how we optimized our resources?”
Ever since, I’ve recognized that if I am willing to give up the search for happiness, I might find a little contentment. And, in that quest to be content, I’ve discovered a power source that has fueled my successes for the past decade, while also bringing me more joy than I could have imagined.
Can you identify when you’ve been pursuing happiness versus questing contentment? Which works best for you?