5 Essentials for Switching From Pursuit of Happiness to Just Being Happy

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360.
Flash Sale—save up to $200 on registration. Ends Thursday. Secure Your Seat »

Happiness is overrated.

Don’t get me wrong, the “… pursuit of happiness …” is very quotable, it sounds great and looks great on paper -- especially when that paper happens to be the Declaration of Independence, which is where the phrase can be found and was signed into existence by our forefathers.

However, it’s difficult to ignore that the Founding Fathers linked happiness to external conditions, given that their concept of happiness was intrinsically connected to the “pursuit” of an unsecured future that promises better prospects than the present.

Based on that definition, it seems that the pursuit of happiness has high variability and volatility based on a bunch of subjective, external factors.

Our western society and capitalist system is geared toward an aggressive “pursuit” -- perhaps more commonly known as the Rat Race -- where happiness is linked to the pursuit of a certain job title, salary, house or car model, graduate degree or any other number of random boxes that need to be checked to solve the happiness calculus.

Perhaps a more meaningful and achievable goal is “…life, liberty and contentment….”

Happiness and contentment are quite different. Contentment suggests a stable and unmoving state of being that is linked to internal factors rather than external circumstances.

But contentment requires intentional, directed effort. Here are five steps that anyone can take toward that goal.

1. Community.

We all have an internal need for the connection and relationship that can be found in a community where we are welcome and accepted, just as we are. That community might be in the workplace, but probably not.

Take a risk and volunteer at a charity organization in your area. Join a neighborhood theater, music group or a crew with Habitat for Humanity. Go to a local church, synagogue, mosque -- or something else you believe in -- that will allow you to connect with others. This is a critical step because it creates a necessary climate for the rest of the steps.

Related: To Get What You Want, Be Happy First

2. Relevance.

Once you’ve found your “tribe” of motivated and like-minded individuals, engage in their collective activities, projects or initiatives. The satisfaction and sense of completion when you accomplish something that matters will be intrinsically gratifying and rewarding, which are critical components of contentment.

Related: Success vs. Happiness: Don't Be Fooled Into Thinking They're the Same

3. Growth.

This step can take several forms but it basically comprises some type of learning or personal development that helps you grow mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically.

Each of those dimensions of our existence needs to be nourished to thrive. Even seemingly small advances in personal growth can have an outsized impact toward a contented life.

Related: 3 Strategies for Hacking Happiness

4. Sharing.

Without sharing the things that you value most -- your time, talents and “treasures” -- it’s difficult to find contentment.

Whether through mentoring, philanthropy or teaching, an important step toward being contented is giving and sharing with others.

Related: 6 Common Barriers to Happiness and Productivity for Men

5. Gratitude.

Having an “attitude of gratitude” seems easy but it’s not.

Many successful, driven individuals are rightly proud of their professional or personal accomplishments, but inner problems arise when they unconsciously forget or minimize the support they received along the way. They’re setting themselves up for disappointment when they delude themselves into believing that they did it all on their own.

Nobody achieves anything meaningful without the help and support of others. Regularly acknowledging that support, and expressing gratitude for it, helps condition the heart and mind for life-altering contentment.

Whether we know it or not, we all desire contentment. These steps can help anyone map a contented path in life.

Self-help experts from Abraham Maslow to Tony Robbins have advanced some variation of these basic human needs in the past, so there’s nothing new here necessarily because these are universal aspects of the human condition.

But these are good reminders for anyone stuck in the Rat Race who’s driven by our western culture and materialistic pursuits.

It’s important to know that you can stop running after a happiness that always promises to be reached tomorrow, when you can instead choose contentment today.