Why I Stopped Seeking Happiness

We are wired to seek happiness. “Live happy.” “Happiness is all that matters.” “Happiness is success.” “Do what makes you happy.” The list of happiness quotes is endless. And there is an entire industry of experts to help you with your pursuit of happiness. 

If you are reading this, you might be on a mission to create a life of happiness. I was on the same mission for the better part of my working career. A few years ago, I abandoned my pursuit of happiness, and I have never felt better about my life. Instead of happiness — I seek fulfillment

Since the time I graduated college, I was determined to live happy. In my 20s, I married the love of my life, and I had a successful corporate career that filled my happiness cup. In my 30s, I shifted career gears after I had children. I left my corporate job for a more flexible path. I started a direct sales business that allowed me to flex my leadership and sales muscles and enabled me to be home and present with my family. Guess what? This balance made me pretty happy. 

During that time, I read every happiness book on the market and listened to every podcast I could find. I couldn’t get enough happy. HAPPY was my mantra. As a mom and a wife, I worked to create a happy home. As an executive leader in my direct sales business, I measured my success with my level of happiness. 

You might be thinking, “Come on. No one can be this damn happy!” Everyone has days, weeks and even months where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t muster up sustainable happiness. When happy was my muse, I felt guilty when I felt unhappy. I had to remind myself, “You are happy and have so much to be happy about.” Like anyone, I had my share of ups and downs, but for the most part, I was happy. 

Then, something happened that turned my life upside down and drained all my happy. 

I was 38 years old, and my dad died unexpectedly. I was heartbroken, devastated and — suddenly — the unhappiest person I knew. I tried to create happy, but it could not compete with the forces of sadness and grief. In the months after my father’s death, I remember wanting ONE thing; I wanted to be happy again. I had moments of happy, but it was fleeting. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t create sustainable happiness. 

It is said that after you lose a loved one, the first year is the hardest. The holidays and traditions are celebrated without the person you loved so much. I was prepared for Christmas to be extremely difficult and sad. I let go of the thought of it being “happy.” I couldn’t even hear a Christmas song without my eyes swelling with tears of sadness that Dad wasn’t going to be with us this year.

Last year, we hosted Christmas for my entire family. It was Christmas morning, and I was surrounded with people I love. I sat on the couch sipping champagne with my husband and watched the kids tear open their presents. My mom was taking a flurry of pictures, and my brothers and I were sharing our favorite memories of our dad. 

It was at this moment I had an epiphany: I realized I wasn’t necessarily happy, but I was extremely fulfilled. I had a loving family, a flexible career, a community of friends who surrounded me in love and prayer, and I had a 38-year relationship with my father that was everything. 

From that point on, I stopped chasing happiness and focused on a life of fulfillment. Happiness is fleeting, but fulfillment is steadfast. I didn’t abandon happiness — I just stopped using it to measure my purpose and drive my success. I found that focusing on fulfillment creates amazing moments of TRUE happiness. 

If you are on a happiness mission, shift your focus to fulfillment. It’s a subtle shift that will change your life. Fulfillment allows you to make tough decisions, enjoy the journey, face your fears, take risks, be courageous and accept the normal ups and downs of daily life. 

And what I’ve found on this mission to live a life of fulfillment is that ... I’ve never been happier. 

Tara Renze