There's a school of thought that human beings have not evolved to be happy. We've evolved to pursue happiness, maybe. But the pursuit of happiness and being happy are different things.
I'll let you into a secret. At a fundamental level, I'm achieving all of my high-level goals.
A wonderful relationship with a wonderful woman? Check.
Healthy and happy children? Check.
Some degree of financial security, including the ability to pay bills, and confidence that my wife and I will be comfortable throughout our working and post-working lives? Check.
Live in a house I love, and that I look forward to spending the next few decades in? Check.
Good health? Check.
Good friends? Check.
I don't mean to brag. I feel incredibly fortunate. I've worked hard to get to where I am, but I am the recipient of tremendous good luck.
I say all this to make a confession. Because I'm a case in point when it comes to pursuing happiness and being happy.
I find it hard to smell the roses. As much as I'd love to, I don't walk around in a state of general contentment. If I'm not striving, I don't feel like I'm thriving.
Now, there are a few things I need to point out about the goals I'm already achieving. With respect to all of these, I need to be diligent. All of these things require maintenance. I could lose them or they could be taken away from me.
These things could get better, too. I'm working on cultivating a better relationship with my wife. I'm doing what I can to ensure my children maintain their good health and continue to be happy. Financial security is something you need to be diligent about - you need to play defence and offence, and play the long game. There's always work to be done on the home. Maintaining good health is something you need to work on. I'd love to spend more time with my friends and have more and deeper relationships.
But working on these things is not enough.
I'm at a point where I feel like I'm manufacturing goals. Because striving is thriving.
Some of these goals are tremendously superficial. Embarrassingly superficial. For example, one of my medium-term goals is to buy a Porsche Cayman*.
Why? Because the heart wants what it wants. It's a superficial goal. Most of the people in my life whose opinion I value think less of me when I tell them this. And in reality, I'd probably be embarrassed to get in and out of a car like this.
It's definitely down the list of priorities compared to my higher level goals. But it gives me some direction and something to focus on.
I would love to be more content and happy. I'd love to have more noble goals. Maybe I'll get there. Maybe, as I get older, my horizon will get narrower or my perspective broader and I'll appreciate that these superficial, manufactured goals don't matter.
But at this point in my life, it seems the best thing I can do is manufacture goals and pursue them. Because striving is thriving.
* A Cayman may be the poor man's 911. But the Cayman is mid-engined and doesn't pretend to have four seats. A Cayman is fast enough: handling is more important than speed. And I know I'm in the minority, but I like the look of the Cayman better than the 911. It helps that a second hand Cayman at under $40,000 is pretty cheap as far as dream cars go!