June 5 – The pursuit of happiness

June 5. “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” (Benjamin Franklin)

In the U.S., heck in life in general, no one is ever going to hand me a big, old plate of happiness. If I want to be happy in life, it is up to me to define what that happiness looks like, and then to go out and make it real in my life.

No one else in this world, not even my amazing, dedicated wife, is responsible for my happiness. It is up to me alone to be happy. There have been times in my life when any casual observer would say that things were going quite well for me, but happiness eluded me. There have been other times in my life when people would have avoided my life circumstance, and yet I held my head high and was happy.

I really do think that for me at least, happiness isn’t about a destination, it is about pursuit. Rarely have I gotten to a place in my life where I was both happy and complacent. And, if I found myself in those two states, one of them didn’t last very long. Either I found something new to pursue, or my happiness soon ebbed.

Back in 2001 I tipped the scales at 218 pounds. That year I was still playing softball, where I had one of my best years ever. We went on a family vacation where I was proud to walk the beach without a shirt on. I had worked hard to lose 72 pounds, and it felt great. That was a fun summer in so many ways. I was happy, and I got complacent with my weight. I stopped tracking my food, and reduced my exercise. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I didn’t wake up one morning and say “well, I am all done with that.” It was far more subtle and took a while.

Over time my weight started to go back up, and my happiness started going back down. I had reached a goal, and I had not set a new one. I had reached happiness and became complacent. The slide downhill which landed me where I was 14 weeks ago didn’t happen over night. It started as a slow decline, but then gained steam over the years.

This morning I am feeling happier about my weight, and I am confident that I will one day be back to that level I was in 2001. This time, though, I will have the benefit of learning a lesson. When I do reach whatever I set as my final weight loss target, I will not allow myself to become complacent. I will find a new goal to keep me on the track.

I don’t know if the framers of the Constitution quite intended it, but by saying that people had the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, they were actually giving us all some advice. That advice would be for us all to decide what makes us happy, and to pursue it. For, it is in the pursuit of happiness that we find ourselves happy.

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