Don’t Chase Happiness, Chase “Hell Yes!”

Let’s talk business for a sec. This business of “being happy”, aka the notion that our primary goal in life should be, to be supremely happy in all situations and at all times. (Just now, after I wrote that second sentence, I popped it into google out of curiosity and here is the first thing I found.)

As a culture we hold this notion that business, wealth, success (and sometimes secrets) will guide us to happiness. We hold the precept that happiness is the goal. We’ve made a terrible mistake.

Happiness is not the goal but the measure of success.

It’s a metric. A feedback that let’s us know, as human beings, how in-line with our purpose and potential we are. Am I doing the work that suits me? Am I making use of my unique talents? Is my inner wisdom and creativity being freely expressed and fully appreciated? Am I supported while doing the work that ONLY I can do? – These are the questions we must ask ourselves to determine whether or not our “outer” (actions, environment, relationships, careers) is inline with our “inner” (goals, dreams, abilities & desires). The more “yes’s” you get and the stronger those “yes’s” are, the happier you’ll find yourself to be.

Chase your inner “hell yes!” 

Don’t chase after money. Don’t chase after success. And don’t chase after happiness. You won’t find it because it isn’t a destination. So what should you pursue? Your inner “hell yes”. If the decisions you make feel “meh”, make different decisions. If the work you do feels “eh”, do different work. Meh, eh, and hell yes, are good  proxies for happiness. And happiness is the feedback you get when you’re utilizing your unique talents, bringing forth what’s inside you, and ultimately serving at your highest level of contribution.

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. – Jesus Christ

But isn’t the purpose of life to be happy? 

No. (Wa-Really? We just went over this!)  Life does not exist on this planet to serve the feeling of happiness. Or any feeling for that matter. From a strictly biological perspective, life evolved feelings of all sorts (sensory, emotional, etc) to provide us with a means of feedback for making better decisions (D) e.g. those that support life:

Sensory: “Ouch! that stove is freaking hot! (D = I should avoid touching it.) Or “Ooooo cool water feels nice. (D = I should cool my body down.)

Emotional: “Fuck! this job is crushing my soul. (D = I should really do something else.) Or “Wow, this work is super exciting!” (D = I should pursue more projects like this.)

Utilize happiness as your MOS (measure of success) and proxy for “on-trackness”:  More “hell yes’s” = more happiness. And more happiness results in greater success. Not the other way around.

Final musings and thoughts on happiness

If the kingdom of heaven is within me, then why do I feel like hell? – Dr. David Hawkins

It’s okay to feel like hell. Neither as biological critters nor as “higher” human beings are we meant to be happy at all times. What we are here to do, is serve. Serve a greater collective be it our family, community, organization or society. Services requires us to give and make unique contributions. As well as to receive, through feedback, friends, employment & finances, that which supports us in making our contributions.

This feedback loop is fraught with obstacles, bottlenecks, blockages and barriers. The process of transcending limitations and finding new ways to continue in the face of challenges often feels like hell. And that’s great! Growth is painful (e.g. growing pains). Pain is necessary because growth is essential. Often times those challenging experiences that cause us the most pain, such as the death of a family member, loss of a lover, or collapse of a company, are the ones from which we grow the most.

So let’s not get caught in the aimless treadmill-pursuit of this pedestal we call happiness. It’s not a destination. It’s a vehicle meant to drive growth.

And only after you’ve gone through something and come out the other side can you know if your vehicle is intact: Do you “feel like hell?” or fell like “hell yes!”  – If it’s the former, fix it. If the latter… drive it.

>> Like this articles? See Getting Unstuck: start with why not


  1. Lissa Rankin says:

    Great post, Ben! I agree that happiness is something we can participate in, but perhaps the quest for perpetual happiness is a recipe for frustration and disillusionment. I think that’s why so much self-help doesn’t work! Perhaps we’re better off doing what we can to live in alignment with our truth but also committing to being fully ALIVE. Sometimes that will feel like joy. Sometimes it will feel like very raw, vulnerable pain. Sometimes it’s the pure ecstasy of unity consciousness or making love and sometimes it’s the pure grief of heartbreak or professional disappointment or losing loved ones. As long as we’re not resisting all of what makes us feel ALIVE, we are free. Maybe that’s what you mean by the Hell Yes- it’s the willingness to go ALL IN even when things aren’t going our way, to be fully alive in the moment- resisting nothing.

    The people I know who think happiness is something you can earn – by right thinking, right doing, lots of therapy and self-help- are constantly disappointed that happiness keeps seeming to elude them at times. But the ones who are just ALL IN to be fully human and ride the roller coaster wind up being the happiest it seems. Because they’re not resisting anything. They’re just rolling with it, welcoming whatever comes into our human lives and succumbing to the mystery of it all.

    Brings to mind this Rumi poem

    The Guest House
    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

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