Last updated on November 24th, 2018 at 10:05 am

You will never live a perfectly happy life. There are always unfulfilled dreams, wishes and promises. There are many times of frustrations. There are tensions. We suffer from the torment of living an insufficient life; there is no completion in this life. This isn’t to bring you down—au contraire! Read on, my friend.

Yes, we all want to be happy. We do ridiculous things we believe will make us happy. We spend sums of money, we go into debt, we take pills, we tell lies, we avoid people, we break the law…we do indefinable acts, believe illogical ideas, follow irrational people just so we can have a few moments of happiness. Then we repeat the unrepeatable!

But you’re pursuing the weak emotion of happiness because you have never-ending streams of stress—called life—interfering with your pursuit.

So how can you be happy? This is the second question to ask. Your first question to ask yourself is: “Is my life meaningful?” Yes, is there meaning in your life? Is there meaning in your job or occupation? Is there meaning in your marriage? Is there meaning in your relationships with your family and friends? Do you find meaning in an ordinary day on planet Earth?

True, you may find happiness sprinkled throughout your days but you’ll mostly focus on your stresses if you don’t pursue your meaning and what’s really meaningful to you.

When you define what is meaningful, the attraction to pursue happiness becomes less significant. I’ll go so far as to say that when you pursue meaning, happiness may be unimportant.

If your life stresses are overwhelming they’ll become the major reasons you’re trying to pursue happiness—just so you can avoid them.

We often fantasize what it would take to be happy. We want to live in a bubble so we would be free from pressures, tiredness, physical pain, relationship problems, financial worry, bad jobs and bad people.

Pursuing happiness suggests that one day you’ll have everything perfect and that you’ll be content: perfect health, the perfect spouse, completely fulfilling relationships, the perfect job, no anxiety, no disappointments and all the money and time to enjoy the good life. But this will never happen. Happiness won’t stay very long when any of these things happen.

You may not be able to cope with much of your stress right now simply because you’re approaching this from a self-destructive angle. In fact, you may be focusing on the most destructive recipe for avoiding stress—attempting to pursue happiness. This is insanity!

Do this. Separate the two: stress and meaning. Forget about happiness, it will come as a result of defining stress and meaning. I mean it; stop trying to pursue happiness.

First—stress. Where is it in your life? This should be easy. Stress comes from several major sources: physical, nutritional and emotional. Determine from these three where the majority of stress is coming from. Really define the specifics of it as if you were telling a friend that is a little hard of hearing and not too bright. Explain it so well that anyone can understand your stress and what you’re going through.

Next—meaning. What is your meaning in this area of stress in your life? Is it what it should or could be? I bet your meaning is a little deflated in this area. Here’s what I mean. Take a stress such as your relationship with your parent going bad. Is this reasonable enough? Let’s say your mom stresses you out. You would just like to be happy, of course, but she makes you feel unhappy (worthless, childlike, abandoned…). In an attempt to be happy, you pursue things that take you away from her and toward other pleasantries.

Instead I want you to focus your attention on the meaning of the relationship you have with your mother (or whatever example of stress you’re using). How clearly defined is your meaning here? Is the meaning of your relationship with her to make yourself happy or is it something else, something deeper, richer or interdependent?

If your meaning is weak, your happiness will be weak. If your meaning is strong, your happiness won’t matter. You aren’t pursuing happiness in this case (or for any other stress in your life) you’re pursuing meaning which will far outlast happiness.

Get clear on your meaning in each area of stress in your life. You can better cope with stress by first defining it and then attaching a stronger meaning to it, a meaning that makes you happy.

Meaning is true happiness. A life that is pursued for meaning will sustain happiness. What is meaningful in your life? What area of your life are you striving to find meaning in?

Find meaning in life. Your stresses will begin to dissolve and your happiness will fill the void.

Dr Peter Lind practices metabolic and neurologic chiropractic in his wellness clinic in Salem, Oregon. He’s the author of three books on health, one novel, and hundreds of wellness articles. His clinical specialty is in physical, nutritional and emotional stress.
image: meaning spray paint via Shutterstock