Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happiness is not a destination

When walking past a shop recently, I glanced into the window and saw a poster with this quote on it:
Happiness is not a destination.
It is a way of life.
It sums up the attitude I’ve been trying to instil in myself.

Last year I blogged several times (here, here and here, for example) about my realisation that ‘life is now’. That means that I can’t wait until I’ve ‘fixed’ the things I think I need to fix and until everything is perfectly in place before I start living my life (my life is now) or before I can acknowledge that I’m happy.

And as I walked, I contemplated the quote (for which I have tried to track down a source, but I've been unable to do so) and it occurred to me that this was not just a quote about happiness. It could actually be applied to any number of things that I’m trying to address in my life.

Try replacing the word ‘happiness’ with ‘health’. 

Health is not a destination; it is a way of life. 

Of course it is. For a long time I’ve focused on an attempt to ‘get healthy’, which implies that there is some point at which the unhealthy me will suddenly be the healthy me, after which everything will be easy, I will never crave chocolate again and I will only drink two glasses of alcohol two nights a week.

I know that's not going to happen. There's not going to be a flick of the switch moment, when I suddenly become healthy.

So if I see health as, instead of an end point that I have to reach, a way of life, then the challenge is no longer to get to 'the end' (to get healthy), but to live a healthy lifestyle (to be healthy).

Instead of complaining that I’m overweight, unfit and unhealthy and telling myself I have to lose weight, get fit and get healthy, I choose to be healthy today. And every time I have a choice, if I choose the healthier option (herbal tea instead of beer; going for a walk instead of watching TV; fruit instead of cake) then I’m reinforcing being healthy. (OK, not every time. I think that’s unrealistic. But most of the time.)

Sure I might have some specific goals*, like I want to be able to run 5 km or I want to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans**, but those goals are not the end point. They are milestones. Am I unhealthy because I can only run 4 km***? Do I suddenly become healthy once I can run 5km? Of course not. There is no end point. You don’t just achieve your health goals and then stop and go back to your old ways once you’ve done it. Health is not a destination; it is a way of life.

I feel much better for starting to live this way of life.

Something else that has been a big focus of my life and that I’ve blogged about several times could also slot right into this quote, and I’m sure there are many others too. But that’s a story for another night.

* Not my actual goals.
**That would be the immediately pre-pregnancy size 8-10s, not the 12 months pre-pregnancy size 14-16s, because fitting into those would require a certain level of relaxation of my lifestyle; and besides, I got rid of them and have no intention of ever buying a pair of jeans that size again.
*** I can’t.


  1. I also like the following quote from a repeat episode of "Spooks" the other night.

    "Happiness is not getting what you want but appreciating what you have."

  2. I once knew someone who was fond of saying Heaven is the journey, not the destination.


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