“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.”
– James Oppenheim
Consider the set of your goals and ambitions, those things that have earned a hard-won spot in your psyche. Perhaps they involve amounts of money, levels of fame, the affection of particular people, some lifestyle you imagine but don’t live. Maybe they involve marathons or mountains. Maybe mischief or mystery.
None of these are absolutely bad or good goals at which to throw yourself. But do remember to look over your own ambitions from time to time and ask yourself: Is pursuing this making me happy, or is this just a symbol of happiness?
Symbols of happiness are just stand-ins for the real thing. They are symbolic or visual representations of happiness, but they are not happiness. Happiness can only live in any given instant. Beware when you think to yourself “I’ll be happy when I…”
What really counts is your ability to de-emphasize the symbol and head straight for the feeling. Of course we must apply ourselves to our goals, but the point is to enjoy it. Quality of life isn’t just over the horizon. It is on the way there.