avatarWesley van Peer


The article discusses the pursuit of sustainable happiness through gratitude, contentment, meaningful connections, and a healthy lifestyle, rather than transient pleasures from material possessions or achievements.


The article "Is Lasting Joy Possible?" rethinks the common pursuit of happiness, suggesting that it is often oversimplified and misunderstood. It argues that true happiness is not derived from external factors like wealth or status, but rather from internal states such as gratitude, contentment, and meaningful social connections. The author emphasizes that while financial security and a healthy lifestyle are important, they are not the sole keys to lasting happiness. Instead, the article suggests that by managing expectations, focusing on the present, and cultivating inner values like compassion and satisfaction, individuals can experience a more stable and resilient form of happiness. The concept of the hedonic treadmill is introduced to illustrate how the pursuit of material gains provides only temporary spikes in happiness, leading to a cycle of constant desire for more. The author encourages readers to reflect on and develop these inner values through conscious actions and habits, such as journaling, to foster a deeper sense of fulfillment and peace.


  • The author believes that happiness is a complex and multifaceted state that is often oversimplified.
  • It is suggested that sustainable happiness comes from internal factors such as gratitude, contentment, and social connections, rather than external achievements or possessions.
  • The article posits that the pursuit of material wealth and status symbols is akin to running on a "hedonic treadmill," providing only fleeting happiness.
  • The author is a proponent of regular reflection on inner values and the present moment to increase happiness structurally.
  • Writing or journaling is recommended as a practical method to become more aware of one's thoughts and to cultivate gratitude for life's simple pleasures.
  • The article concludes with the idea that our perception and choices significantly influence our level of happiness, echoing the wisdom of Epictetus that our troubles stem not from things themselves but from our views about them.

Is Lasting Joy Possible?

Rethinking Our Pursuit of Happiness

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

What exactly is happiness? We use the word so often — “I want to be happy”, “money can’t buy happiness” — but what exactly do we mean by that? Is it an emotion, a lifestyle, or something more tangible such as health or prosperity? I think we oversimplify happiness too quickly.

It’s more complex than we think.

A Perspective on Control and Contentment

Happiness sometimes seems fleeting; it slips through our fingers when we try to grab it. We experience a moment of pure joy, but before we know it - it’s over. Does this mean that happiness is elusive for us humans?

Or can we gain more ‘control’ over sustainable happiness in our lives through the right choices and mindset? I’m inclined to believe so.

By pursuing gratitude, contentment, meaning, and social connection, we can lay the foundation for lasting happiness. Not that we will be euphoric every day, but we may experience more stability, resilience, and inner peace. Of course, a healthy lifestyle and financial security also play a role.

But ultimately, in my opinion, it is mainly about perception and expectation management.

  • If we realize that complete and constant happiness is an illusion, we may be better able to fully appreciate life’s beautiful moments when they occur.
  • And when we focus on gratitude for what we do have, rather than frustration about what is missing, we can paradoxically experience more happiness.

So yes, happiness is complex and multi-dimensional. But that doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate or nurture it. We just have to approach it differently than many people do.

How do you think about this?

Rethinking the Pursuit of Happiness

So a crucial insight is that we often approach happiness incorrectly. We focus too much on tangible things such as money, status, and possessions — with the illusion that these will make us happy in the long term. But if you think about this more deeply and dive into your own experience of life, isn’t it true that the effects of this on our level of happiness are relatively short-lived?

Take, for example, a promotion at work with a significant pay increase. First you experience euphoria, pride, relief. Finally you can buy your ‘dream house’ or travel the world. But soon you got used to the new salary and the new job. The boost in happiness levels off and you aspire to the next goal again.

This is also called the hedonic treadmill; we keep chasing that next tangible status symbol or proof of achievement, without it structurally increasing our deeper satisfaction. We are, as it were, filling a bottomless pit.

Does this mean that we should no longer pursue material things and outward achievements?

I don’t think so. A minimum of prosperity and comfort is important for everyone’s well-being, right?

If we want to sustainably increase our happiness, it is crucial to regularly reflect on inner values such as gratitude, compassion, and satisfaction with the present moment. Because ultimately the peaks and valleys of happiness mainly come from our own mind.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” — Epictetus

Cultivating Lasting Happiness

If external comfort and tangible successes only bring temporary happiness, how can we increase our structural level of happiness?

Of course, as mentioned earlier: a certain degree of physical and financial security remains a basic requirement. But at least as important is the development of those inner values I just mentioned, not just to regularly reflect.

Reflection is useful, but in the end, it’s all about the actions we take. You can keep reflecting, thinking, and manifesting, but I’m a firm believer that nothing just comes to you.

Therefore, the good news is that we can actively work on this, and turn those values into qualities through making conscious choices in our daily lives. Trust me, writing or journaling is a great way to kickstart that development process. You’ll become much more aware of what’s really going on in that head of yours, like where your focus mostly lies.

I focused a lot on what I was missing in life, but when I start writing I’m forcing myself to dive deeper. And that’s where the little things suddenly appear which you can be grateful for. You suddenly remember that beautiful sky you saw when you drove to work this morning, or the delicious taste of the coffee you drank during lunch today (yes, we — thank God — have good coffee at the office).

It’s the seemingly simple moments and experiences that, added up, make all the difference to our deeper sense of peace and fulfillment. And hey, we all have a lot to learn. When you start thinking you know it all — think again. You know nothing.

So don’t forget to occasionally reflect on the question: am I busy living, or being lived? Better slow down, right R C Hammond? Because ultimately our own choices and perception determine how happy we are.

As Epictetus also said:

“It is not the things themselves that trouble us, but the views we have about them.”

Let’s take that wisdom to heart!

A human, not an AI text generator, wrote this piece.
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