Why Happiness Should Not Be The Goal For Our Children

Most parents say they just want their children to be happy. Although it seems like a worthy goal, our happiness-focused culture is actually having the opposite effect on our children. They feel that something is wrong with them if they are unhappy. 

For the younger generation, much of their world revolves around social media posts. These tend to present a distorted picture of real-life by only showing perpetual happiness and seemingly perfect people. Zoom even added an application to enhance the looks of participants. This leads to unrealistic comparisons​ as well as​ the devaluing of the full range of human emotions​​​ and exacerbates ​feelings of unhappiness.

No one is happy all the time and life’s unpredictability makes sustaining that emotion impossible. Events will occur such as death, natural disasters, financial stress, pandemics, and even personal disappointments, which are out of our control.

The goal of happiness is unattainable.  

According to Viktor E. Frankl, psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning,  “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness. Happiness cannot be pursued. It must ensue.” 

Our children need a reason to be happy. 

Happiness is a by-product of having found meaning in life. Meaning is specific to the individual. It cannot be given, it must be discovered. 

This discovery process–the journey of life–requires freedom of choice and responsibility.  It involves making choices moment to moment based on the circumstances of an individual’s life in pursuit of goals and dreams that matter to them. 

My wish for my children, and for yours, is that they find meaning in their lives and that this meaning brings them happiness.

4 Replies to “Why Happiness Should Not Be The Goal For Our Children”

  1. There’s so much truth in your words. This is why I think it is even more important that parents check their own level of fulfillment. When we experience fulfillment and have found meaning in our own lives, we will understand that it’s an intrinsic experience and not about what our lives look like on the outside. Only when we understand this, we can encourage our children to sense what is meaningful to them and follow that path.
    Looking forward to your next blog!

    1. Thank you, Danielle. It is important that we (parents) discover our own meaning. Since it is unique to the individual, we cannot give it to our children. Alex Vesely, grandson of Viktor Frankl, says that well-meaning is the opposite of meaning. We can, however, model personal responsibility and freedom of choice as we purse our goals and dreams.

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