The Happiness Paradox
Matthew Kelly


Everybody wants to be happy.  You want to be happy, and I want to be happy.  The human person has a natural thirst for happiness, and we do the things we do because we believe they will make us happy.

From time to time, people do stupid things.  We may look at them and scratch our heads.  We may wonder, "Why would anybody ever do something so stupid?" or, "Don't they know that is going to make them miserable?"  But be assured, the reason people do stupid things is because they mistakenly believe those stupid things will make them happy.

People do not wake up in the morning and ask themselves, "How can I make myself miserable today?"

The human heart is on a quest for happiness.  We give this happiness different names and masks, and we live our lives in search of it.

This is the great modern paradox:  We know the things that make us happy; we just don't do them.

* * * * *

There are four aspects to the human person:  physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Physically, when you exercise regularly, sleep regularly, eat the right sorts of foods, and balance your diet, how do you feel?  You feel fantastic.  You feel more fully alive.  You're healthier, happier, and you have a richer, more abundant experience of life.

Emotionally, when you focus and give priority to your relationships, what happens?  You switch the focus off yourself and onto others.  As you do, your ability to love increases. . . and as your ability to love increases, your ability to be loved increases.  You become more aware of yourself, develop a more balanced view of life, and experience a deeper sense of fulfillment.  You're healthier.  You're happier.

Intellectually, when you take ten or fifteen minutes a day to read a good book, what happens?  Your vision of yourself expands; your vision of the world expands.  You become more focused, more alert, and more vibrant.  Clarity replaces confusion.  You feel more fully alive, and you are happier.

Finally, spiritually, when you take a few moments each day to step into the classroom of silence and reconnect with yourself and with your God, what happens?  The gentle voice within grows stronger, and you develop a deeper sense of peace, purpose, and direction.  You're healthier, you're happier, and you have a richer experience of life.

Physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, we know the things that infuse our lives with passion and enthusiasm.  We know the things that make us happy.  We just don't do them.

It doesn't make sense, does it?

On the one hand, we all want to be happy.  On the other hand, we all know the things that make us happy.  But we don't do those things.  Why?  Simple.  We are too busy.  Too busy doing what?  Too busy trying to be happy.

This is the paradox of happiness that has bewildered our age.

Too Busy Doing What?

Physically--we don't exercise regularly because we're too busy.  We don't eat the right types of food, because they take too long to prepare, it's too easy to go through the drive-through, and we're too busy.

We don't sleep regularly because there are still only twenty-four hours in a day.  We feel as though our lives have a momentum of their own, that they would go on with or without us.  Our list of the things we have to do just gets longer and longer.  We never feel that we get caught up; we just get more and more behind every day.  Seriously, when was the last time you sat down, took a deep breath, and said to yourself, "I'm caught up now!"  So we rush around late at night doing fifty-five little things before we go to bed and robbing ourselves of the precious sleep that rebuilds and rejuvenates us.  Why?  We are too busy.

Intellectually--we don't even take those ten or fifteen minutes each day to read good books that challenge us to change, to grow, and to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.  Why?  We don't have time.  We are too busy.

Spiritually--most people very rarely step into the classroom of silence to reconnect with themselves and their God.  Why?  We are afraid of what we might discover about ourselves and about our lives.  We are afraid we might be challenged to change.  And we are too busy.

* * * * *

It begs the question, doesn't it?  What are we all too busy doing?

For the most part, we are too busy doing just about everything that means just about nothing, to just about nobody, just about anywhere. . . and it will mean even less to anyone a hundred years from now!

Here's the gospel according to Kelly: Find a life-changing rhythm by choosing a central purpose and becoming "the best version of yourself."  Kelly makes thoughtful distinctions.  He contrasts the difference between doing and having, the legitimate need for health and happiness with the illegitimate desire for expensive toys and the pursuit of minimalism vs. excellence.  Then he gets specific, offering five questions about life's meaning, three instruments for anchoring your life and ten principles of excellence.


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