One of my favorite movies is The Pursuit Of Happyness. Starring one of my favorite actors, Will Smith, the movie chronicles a one-year period of homelessness in the life of Chris Gardner, who overcame poverty to become an author, motivational speaker, and manager of his own stock brokerage.
During a recent morning meditation, I pondered the title of the movie, which intentionally misspells “happiness,” and how Gardner, as portrayed by Smith, pursued happiness in the movie. It occurred to me during this quiet time that Gardner may not have been pursuing happiness at all. He was pursuing meaning. And his successful pursuit of meaning brought him happiness.
Importantly Gardner found meaning in large part through his vocation. In this context, I believe that meaning is more important than happiness.
If you are doing work that you know has significant meaning, even if you you are not becoming extremely wealthy as a result, you will likely enjoy high levels of happiness, or the emotions we typically think of when we describe ourselves as “happy.”
On other hand, seeking true happiness before deep meaning is like putting the cart before the horse. In my experience, taking small steps daily that create meaning in life lead directly to a kind of happiness that is constant, and which is really more aptly described as “contentment.”
Pursuit of meaning leads us to opportunities and circumstances that lead to happiness, joy and success in all areas of life. As long as you experience meaning, all kinds of happiness will follow. In fact, happiness, as it's described by most, barely scratches the surface.
Question: Did you see “The Pursuit of Happiness?” What do you think Gardner was looking for? What did he find? Would you rather be happy in life, or experience meaning in life?