“Happiness can be dangerous. It dulls the senses.”

Phil Knight

Happiness is a very discussed topic, and it tends to get thrown around as if it’s a mental state to be in, when the truth is that its just an emotion. The pursuit of happiness is a rollercoaster because happiness is elusive, we will experience happiness, sadness, anger, joy, and many emotions throughout our lives. Asking ourselves to be happy everyday is a dangerous thing as other emotions can become suppressed. A human being should be able to experience every emotion that surfaces, an effective human being should be able to productively utilize those emotions, the good and the bad. Happiness is not an entity that we can catch or even chase for that matter. It comes to us, along with many other positive and negative emotions.

A happy memory that sticks out in my childhood is playing pond hockey on freezing cold days right into even colder nights, my face about to freeze off. Even still, my parents would have to drag me off of that Ice, when I came inside warm soup or chili and hot chocolate awaited. When I sat with my cherry face by the fire, watching hockey night in Canada, after a full day of pond hockey, soup and mug in hand, I remember that as one of the most comforting feelings of my life. 

As a person now attempting adulthood, part of me wishes that I could simply live in that comfort as I did back then, stay quiet, and eat my soup. But, now I think: Would I be so comforted by the fire, the soup, and the hot chocolate if I wasn’t freezing my butt off all day? Would that experience be as gratifying without the struggle? The cold made the warm that much warmer.

My childhood spent in the cold by choice is definitely a low level example of a struggle, it actually sounds like a pretty great childhood, and it was. However, there are different levels to struggle and we would think as the struggle increased the happiness would decrease but continually throughout history we have found the contrary. Every human being experiences forms of struggle every day, some small and some exponential. Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who was also a WWII concentration camp survivor explains struggle as a natural occurrence that we can generally find meaning from if we look for it:

The Meaning of Suffering

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves…

We live in a world today where we seek the path of least resistance, we search for comfort. In this search for comfort we also live in a time with incredibly high rates of depression and anxiety, which in turn has us pushing hard for external bandaid solutions. But, to address the root of our societal issue, we must look internally and examine our response to when we are uncomfortable rather than run away from struggle by chasing happiness. This is not an easy thing to do, it’s much easier to sit back and stay comfortable. As ironic as this sounds, a tactic that many use to rise to this challenge is to find something external to chase, but it’s not an emotion. It is simply a purpose.

Label it anything you’d like: purpose, passion, destiny, goal. We all have something we can find or create as our purpose. Something we can struggle through, something we can earn and learn. Something where we can simply experience the cause and effect of struggle & failure, achievement & success.

Failure only exists when you make the choice to quit. The answer to failure, rather than run from the struggle, is to embrace it when it comes. You might be beaten, but if you choose to adapt through your uncomfortable struggle, you will come out of the other side happily ready for more.

None of us are a product of our suffering, but we will become our response to it.