Happiness is the Experience of Climbing Toward the Peak

It’s so easy to let your happiness depend on what you’ve got. Likewise, it’s easy to be discouraged by what you don’t have, but as Tal Ben-Shahar said, “happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”

“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”

– Tal Ben-Shahar

Whether it’s a material item, an accomplishment, or a place, it’s easy to focus too much on the goal and rely on that end result to determine your happiness.

I’ve known many people (including past myself) who were depressed because they didn’t have the job they wanted. I’ve known people down because they didn’t have the right clothes or the best phone.

Have you seen someone working towards a goal and not letting themselves enjoy life or feel happy until they reach that goal?

There are a couple of things wrong with that.

Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Happiness Rely on Results

First, the joy you feel when you finally get that new computer or position will fade after a few weeks or months. Then you’ll return to feeling unhappy until you attain the next thing.

You might also find out that you don’t really enjoy that thing or that job that you’re happiness has relied on attaining the past few years.

Take my college experience as an example. It’s a bad example because I had a blast in college. However, it just as easily could have served as an excellent example of not enjoying the journey to the peak if I had had a different attitude.

I was happy to attain my accounting degree and first job.

Unfortunately, I realized after a few months of working that job that I had spent years preparing for the wrong field! I was happier in college while working towards what I thought I wanted. Then I spent several years unhappy, hating what I did, and wanting to be in a different role.

What About Now?

I’d prefer not to need the job I have. I’d enjoy writing books and blogs, recording songs and podcasts, and meeting new and exciting people daily. I’m still happy, though, because I can enjoy each day.

Enjoying the day is a considerable challenge some days. I’m fixing and troubleshooting laptops. Not anything I’ve ever dreamed of. It could get super dull, so I focus on enjoying meeting new people in the office and how happy it makes them when I solve their technology problems.

The advice worked for my daughter. She’s not rich (yet), but she enjoys what she does for a living. Since she enjoys what she does for a living, she’s good at her job and has enjoyed a few promotions.

My younger daughter has no idea what she wants to do as a career. So I’ve given her the same advice. Do something you can enjoy doing every day, not something that might help you accomplish something else.

Success will eventually come as you get better at doing work you enjoy daily. If financial or career success never comes, you still get to be happy most days. Notice that I did not say you’ll be satisfied every day.

How Happiness is the Experience of Climbing Toward the Peak

I have a perfect, more literal example for Tal Ben-Shahar’s quote. It happened when I hiked and climbed my first mountain summit. Six friends of mine enjoyed that mountain adventure together.

I met one of those friends for the first time on that trip, during which we spent several days working our way to the top of a mountain. We had fun each day of that journey, relishing the work of hiking, climbing, and preparing meals. We marveled at the natural beauty through which we traversed.

On the final day of the ascent, two guys in that group didn’t make it to the mountain’s summit.

Two guys on that trek realized they wouldn’t make it and pivoted to different goals. One of them switched to climbing a less challenging peak along the trail. The other opted to sit, rest, snack, and meditate on the breath-taking view.

So while only 67% of us reached the goal we set out to accomplish, 100% of us had a great time and will forever treasure the memories of that trek.

Something else we didn’t do was simply wander through the trees and rocks. We had a goal and a plan for that goal. We planned the route we’d take up the mountain, where we camped along the way, and a strategy for reaching the top on summit day.

If we’d wandered aimlessly instead of following a plan, we wouldn’t have found water or suitable camping spots.

As Tal Ben-Shahar suggested, we climbed that mountain. We enjoyed the experience of hiking, finding and treating water, preparing food, camping, fellowshipping, and climbing as much as signing the summit log.

What’s The Point of a Journey?

Have you been on a road trip lately?

Probably not. Most people want to get where they’re going. They want to reach the end, accomplish the goal, and achieve the climax. 

What are they missing? 

Just about everything. 

They’re missing the journey, the climb, all the scenery, fun, and experiences along the path. As Neil Peart penned in the Rush song, Prime Mover, “The point of a journey is not to arrive.”

The point of a journey is the journey, not the end.

The point of fishing is fishing, not the fish.

The point of love is love, not what you get.

Happiness is the climb, not the peak.

Question: What do you enjoy doing regardless of the result?

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