Don’t Chase Happiness

[May 15, 2022]  In my experience, happiness1 is not one of the goals we should pursue.  When happiness hits us, yes!, that is something to appreciate.  But the notion that happiness is a proper measure by which to judge a successful life2, is the weakest of beliefs.  The rule of life is to go after the noble goal – aim high – like selfishly mentoring others, being a moral person, or creating great music, or art, or write a literary piece that can be appreciated.

“It’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness. It’s not in impulsive pleasure.” –  Jordan Peterson

Happiness is not a noble aim.  Happiness occurs almost randomly, it comes and goes, and yes, we should be appreciative when it comes.  But happiness is fleeting and unpredictable.  If we want happiness, then mind-altering drugs and alcohol are a means to that end.  That works, at least in the short term, and it is cheap and instantaneous.  Of course, drugs and alcohol destroy the lives of perhaps five to ten percent of our society and severely handicaps those it does not kill.

Don’t pursue happiness.  Life is full of suffering, tragedy, and heartbreak; these will quickly destroy happiness.  That’s inescapable but it doesn’t mean it makes life unbearable.

Life gives us challenges to overcome, we have to prepare ourselves – be prepared – we have to contend with it.  To overcome the problems in life, we adopt responsibility for yourself and others.  And, if we can properly contend with it, then maybe we can get some happiness and maybe stronger and more resilient.  At the end of the day, we can look ourselves in the mirror and know that there is nothing we need to be doing and the world is the best it can be for us.

That is why we should pursue who we could be.  Yet, we are not who we could be, and we know it.  We lack the proper discipline, procrastinate, have bad habits and odd tastes, and do things that make no sense.  We know perfectly well that we are not who we could be.

Do those things that are good and it will benefit others.  We do this by developing our character as much as possible.  And maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, happiness will descend upon us on occasion.  We can be grateful for that brief happiness.

We want our conscience to be clean and clear.  We want our interpersonal relationships to be honest.  We want to be reliable and dependable.  And, if we can add exciting and adventurous to that, so much the better.  Success means, to be successful means to be good.  That is the best that we’ve got.

Pursue meaning, not happiness.


  1. Americans are quick to respond by saying the “pursuit of happiness” is a guaranteed Constitutional right. Actually, this phrase (changed while debating its wording, from the “pursuit of property” to “happiness”) is part of the Declaration of Independence – a list of grievances against the King of England to justify independence.  The Constitution, signed eleven years later, is silent on the idea of the pursuit of happiness.  The point here is that we are too often confused by what is happiness, a term used sloppily in the English language.  I draw a narrow definition of happiness for this article.
  2. The idea of what is success is something to explore. What I can say is that success for one person means also making other people around them successful too.  This is really good for your conscience because you are not accomplishing things at the expense of others.  Quiet the contrary.  You are lifting the tide that lifts all boats.  You may be elevating your personal status, but it’s not unreasonable to believe this is a constraining requirement.  Human beings are unbelievably social and reciprocal, and are best when they are of service to their fellow man, family members, your broader community, and nation.  There are very few pleasures that compete with that.


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Don’t Chase Happiness

  1. Willie Strumburger

    If you chase ‘happiness’ you will fail. That is not our goal. Our goal is to pursue a noble cause.

  2. Clinton III

    Finally, someone gets it. Happiness is used too broadly. Kids mean laugh and have thrilling fun. Drugs and alcohol = good. Victimless. Now we know this is wrong wrong wrong.

    1. Blue Spy

      The young are clueless and that is why we should raise the minimum voting age to 30.

  3. American Girl

    “Do those things that are good and it will benefit others. We do this by developing our character as much as possible. And maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, happiness will descend upon us on occasion. ” Gen. Satterfield quote of the day.

  4. Jeff Blackwater

    Awww, man! And I thought chasing happiness was the way! Disappointed, I am.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield. As you know, I’m one of the original readers to post in this forum. It’s come a long way. It’s become something where we can make comments and get legit feedback. This is a good way to improve our arguments and logic. Very important. Especially when we had all those government-imposed lockdowns (which were unnecessary). Keep up the great work you are doing here.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      Hi Yusaf, you and I as well. We’ve also grown tremendously ourselves. 😊❤

  6. The Northeast

    Well written article today, Gen. Satterfield and worthy of a read. Well, I read it twice. Sometimes I miss smaller points on a first read. For example, it’s worth it to read your two footnotes. This is how we all can gain a better understanding.

  7. Laughing Monkey

    Hey, folks, be sure to purchase Gen. Satterfield’s book. It came out last year in September. “Our Longest Year in Iraq.” If you want to find out more about the war, this is the book for you. I read it. Enjoyed the book tremendously. And, if you are in war, you are someone we will honor.

    1. Greg Heyman

      That’s why so many of us are regulars here in the leadership section where you can comment. It gives us better insight and some additional motivation to do better and better. We also learn a heck of a lot more.

  8. Wild Bill

    Hi Gen. Satterfield, thanks for your series on “how to be a better person.” I call it that, instead of learning leadership because what you write is for everyone and how to make themselves better than they think they could ever be.

  9. Harry Donner

    Hi all, lovely weekend and one to get ready for our local Memorial Day. I hope all of you are preparing yourselves. This is close to this idea of not chasing happiness. While some will try with BBQs and family time, this is a point to reflect and study. Be responsible and help out your community with their parades etc. That is a better way to acknowledge our fallen military personnel.

  10. Janna Faulkner

    Spot-on blog post today. If you chase happiness, then you will be sorely disappointed. Then you will be prone to drink and drugs to make up for what you cannot achieve. I’ve seen too many go down this path.

    1. Valkerie

      General Satterfield is taking us down the road of wisdom. Even in the Bible, we learn that happiness is NOT our goal. This is full of ancient knowledge put together over thousands of years. Best not to ignore it.

      1. Dead Pool Guy

        Valkerie, you and Janna are right. Let’s not over look this. I too have seen people go down this terrible path and resort to alcohol and drugs to augment their ‘happiness.’ Strange! They never seem to find happiness or cannot maintain it for any length of time.

      2. Anya B.

        Good one, Valkerie. I like this leadership blog and have been a real fan for a long time. I also found that this leadership forum is great too.


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