Is the Pursuit of Happiness a Selfish Endeavor?

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For me, the greatest things about blogging is the feedback I receive from people about my articles.  It is nice to have people validate my work & thoughts with supporting comments.  What I enjoy even more are the comments from people who disagree with my sentiments.  It is from differing opinions that we are able to engage in meaningful conversation which is relevant, intriguing & insightful.

In my article How to Quit a Job I discuss quitting a job in order to pursue happiness & satisfaction in your life.  Most readers were supportive of my ideas while some questioned my networking advice.  The most interesting comment came from a reader who questioned my thoughts as being unrealistic & selfish.  I was a bit taken back by their response.  As such, I would like to really delve deep into their comment and offer my perspective on what they had to say.

When it comes to job security, I think the vast majority of people are somewhere in between absolutely loving their jobs and dreading getting up Monday morning.  Most of us may be dissatisfied with one or several aspects of our work, but much of life works that way…it will never be perfect and part of the maturity process lies in weighing the pros and cons of any situation and reconciling ourselves to make the best of what will usually be less than perfect.

First things first, there is no such thing as job security.  Anyone could lose their job for a variety of reasons, reasons beyond anyone’s control.  We are all subject to outsourcing, company bankruptcy or down-sizing.  Each of us is replaceable when we work for someone else.

I agree that the majority of people will find themselves falling somewhere in the middle of the love/hate scale when it comes to their work.  There are many aspects of most jobs that are rewarding; the feeling of camaraderie with your co-workers, the challenge of the task at hand  and feelings of accomplishment.

Despite these positive aspects of work, sometimes people burnout & are no longer happy in their careers.  These are the people to whom I speak.  Those who dread the thought of having to drag themselves through the door to make it through another day.  People who are unhappy with their work also tend to be unhappy in their lives.  Believing that “much of life works this way” is not acceptable to me.  As individuals we are solely responsible for our situations in life and telling ourselves that we do not deserve to be happy or satisfied in our lives is not “maturity”.  It is accepting defeat.  Instead of pushing for a better life, we are giving up.

Those who have a family to support will be even less inclined to take big risks by quitting a job they’re not enamored of, and understandably so.  Today’s job market is not one that encourages this kind of risk-taking when long-term unemployment or underemployment could be the likely result.

Quitting a job does not need to be risky if it is planned appropriately.  I do not endorse walking into your workplace and handing in your resignation without proper preparation.  In my article I recommend a number of ways to prepare yourself for leaving your job.  It is important to plan any major change in your lifestyle, especially in a job market as unstable as the one we are currently in.  A well-considered plan could lead to great opportunity, regardless of what the market is doing.  It is simply a matter of educating yourself about the risks involved with your pursuits & doing all that you can to ensure your success when the day comes to leave your job.

Those who have a family are not any less entitled to fulfillment in their lives.  Yes, it is true that people who have a husband/wife and/or children will need to consider the ramifications that their actions will have on the lives of others.  That shouldn’t mean that they should have to work  at a job they hate every single day in order to provide for their family.

As I mentioned above, people who are unhappy in their jobs are also unhappy in their lives.  Most people think they can seperate their work lives from their personal lives.  I disagree.  When someone has a bad day at work, it comes home with them.  If they are bringing the stress of work home with them, are they being as good of a spouse or parent as they could be?  When your child has grown, will they pride themselves with knowing their parents sacrificed their happiness in order to provide a stable life for them?  Will you grow to resent the ones you love because you convinced yourself that their lives were more important than your own?

There is a balance that can be found.  It is possible to pursue our own happiness while meeting our responsibilities at home.  Using family as an “excuse” not to seek our own satisfaction will only result in a feeling of acrimony.  A family does not mean becoming a slave to other people.  Pursuing our own happiness will result in a better family environment in the long run.  It isn’t always about “security” or money, love is the most important thing in any familial relationship.

I don’t think your statement: “Staying in a position in order to maintain respect, or any reason, is ridiculous. We should be seeking satisfaction in every way possible, including our careers.” is realistic. While personal fulfillment is great, as we grow older, most of us learn that there are more important things in life than selfish pursuit of Happiness, whatever that means, to the exclusion of, perhaps, providing as well as we could for our families.

It is interesting that seeking personal satisfaction in every aspect of our lives seems unrealistic.  Isn’t that what life is about?  We are on this Earth for a finite amount of time, time which we can never regain no matter how hard we try & for no amount of money.  Each moment that slips by is another moment gone.  Why should we accept our lives the way they are if we are not satisfied or if we are unhappy?  It makes no sense to spend life knowing that we could be doing better for ourselves, yet making a conscience decision not to. 

Is the pursuit of happiness really selfish?  Why not work at a job that provides you with satisfaction and allows more time with your children?  An afternoon with mommy and daddy is more valuable to them than any amount of money.

Using the excuse of “providing as well as we could for our families” is nothing more than projecting an unwillingness to change our situation onto our families.  Instead of analyzing the real reason we don’t pursue our dreams, maybe fear or insecurity, it is easier to use a socially acceptable excuse such as family.  Using our family as the reason we stay in a job which makes us unhappy is essentially saying that our family is the reason for our unhappiness.  “I hate my job but I stay because of my family.”

Life is short, life is limited.  We all deserve to be happy, whatever that is to us as an individual.  Maybe providing for your family is what makes you happy, but if you hate your job it doesn’t make sense to stay in it.  There are always other jobs out there and since there is no such thing as job security, there is no reason a person shouldn’t be looking for a way to earn a living which at the same time provides a feeling of satisfaction.

What I see as being selfish is blaming our feelings of inadequacies on someone or something else.  It all falls into our control.  We make the choice to pursue our goals, our satisfaction and our happiness.  I don’t think that is naive or immature.

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One thought on “Is the Pursuit of Happiness a Selfish Endeavor?

  1. I think you are absolutely right! It is not selfish to pursue happiness, unless you harm others in that pursute. Having a job you do not like or find no satisfaction in does effect your homelife no matter how hard to try to avoid it. I, like most people, tend to spend more time with coworkers than my own family. And, if you don’t like your environment at work it does leave you feeling very unfullfilled, like a waste of time and effort.

    I believe we come to earth to excel in every aspect of our lives, or why would we bother coming down here. Everyone has a talent, and it has become a miracle for some to find a job in their chosen field.

    And, as far as having no job security, you are right again. Some may have jobs where their coworkers are their best friends. That means nothing when it comes down to the bottom line in business. If the budget gets cut, so could you.

    I found this article most helpful and inspiring! It gave me just a little more motivation to keep looking for that “dream job” I spent so much money to be able to acquire.

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