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The Meaning of the Pursuit of Happiness and How to Discover It

The Meaning of the Pursuit of Happiness and How to Discover It

happiness, happy, meaning of the pursuit of happiness


As humans, we share the need to be heard and included. We are social, interactive beings built on foundations of communication and community. We’d all like to make important, helpful contributions to those around us. As our best selves, we achieve happiness by spreading joy to others in our roles as parents, children, siblings or friends. Or even when we extend joy to strangers.

What if the meaning of the pursuit of happiness is to discover and live out our unique, intended contributions?

I believe we’re each born with the capacity to discover the unique purpose that sets us apart from other people. Further, I believe the individual’s purpose is meant to heal them and then be used to heal others. 

Some call this the “medicine” of a person’s life and others simply a “calling” or “dream.” World-renowned author Paulo Coelho calls it the individual’s “Personal Legend”:

Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream…”


The Meaning of the Pursuit of Happiness 

Have you ever observed someone deeply invested in their purpose? Maybe they were on stage or the center of attention at a book-reading. Maybe they were playing an instrument or giving a lecture. How did you feel observing them? 

An old English Professor of mine taught me the meaning of the pursuit of happiness. He lectured on Romanticism and captivated the class with speeches about the daring Romantics who broke away from realism to capture and convey the power of feelings and imagination.

My professor lectured fervently and wove together narratives of history, art, ideas and innovation. I discovered that he’d followed his pursuit of happiness and Personal Legend. He spent hours a week lecturing on topics he was obviously passionate about. 

 The meaning of the pursuit of happiness is to discover the unique talent that resides in the center of your being. But how can you find this center? How can you discover your purpose and fully tend to the pursuit?

The Meaning of the Pursuit of Happiness and How to Discover It

Practice solitude for your pursuit of happiness

The world tends to tether us to goals and desires that aren’t our own. We unknowingly absorb this residue from conversations, social media, advertisements and more. 

The surest way to come back to ourselves is through spending time alone. Being in solitude can connect us to our core values and reasons for walking the face of Planet Earth.

A good way to be alone is by going to nature. Do you have a simple community park near your home? That’s enough. There’s no need to retreat to the mountains for days to gain revelation about your pursuit of happiness. Simply walking alone to the sound of birds and the feeling of grass between your toes is effective.

When you’re able to break away, it can be beneficial to have a journal handy. Don’t worry too much about specific prompts. Just write about your surroundings, what you feel, what you want your life to be like, and anything else that comes to mind. Often, our important breakthroughs are near the surface waiting for a technique like journaling and solitude to allow them to spring forth and make themselves known.

If the meaning of the pursuit of happiness is to discover our unique paths,  and if we can do that by spending time alone in nature, then what should we do once our paths are revealed to us? How should we go about following our pursuit of happiness throughout our lives?

Understand that the pursuit of happiness won’t always feel happy

Paulo Coelho writes more about our Personal Legends in the introduction to his beloved novel, The Alchemist:

“We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: ‘Oh, well, I didn’t really want it anyway.’ We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it.”


Once you know the meaning of the pursuit of happiness, you’ll really want it. To achieve it, you’ll have to work hard without distractions and persevere through challenges and potential shortfalls. Part of the meaning of the pursuit of happiness is striving for what you want most.

In this process, keep loved ones close. Let them know your mind and communicate your goals to them. According to an 80 year Harvard study, we accumulate happiness through community and human interaction. So while I’m suggesting you spend time alone to identify your ultimate pursuit, know that interacting with those you love and trust is still an important part of the path. 

If you’re lucky, you already have stable family and friend groups that understand, support, and fuel your dreams. Unfortunately, we don’t all have that. Some of us, for example, struggle against a family member’s differing wish for us. Also, it’s not uncommon for those in our lives to unconsciously infiltrate our dreams due to their own lack of a pursuit of happiness.

Nonetheless, your pursuit of happiness will eventually bring you the love and community you desire. That may even include people who have similar pursuits as you. Just remember to keep your path as your own along the way. 

Your pursuit of happiness will look different than anyone else’s

While yearning strongly to discover our paths, it’s common to feel envy over someone else’s success. 

If this happens to you, know that it’s only an unconscious desire to fulfill your own, unique success. 

Many rejoice in the poem by Robert Frost called “The Road Not Taken.” In it, the protagonist is faced with differing paths and brags that he “took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The poem comforts and teaches us to rejoice in carving a new way rather than walking the paths already established by others. 

Confidence will prevail on your path once you understand the uniqueness of your pursuit of happiness. You’ll feel clarity along with the ability to fully go after your dream. But what are the final tools needed?

Fulfilling the meaning of the pursuit of happiness

There are a few steps left. Pursuing your deepest dreams and aspirations is no easy task as you’ve learned. But by understanding the struggles of the pursuit, you’ll feel better equipped to implement these final few tips.

This new path of yours may take new habits, and even a new lifestyle. The fulfillment of your pursuit will require a new version of yourself, not only in a new passion you may have found, but in all areas of your life.

I have many talented friends who could become successful poets, pro-surfers, and leading scientists if they wanted. But only some practice devotion to their talents. The others? They have deep, lingering doubts and are distracted by over-socializing and promises of wealth elsewhere. Talent isn’t enough. You need to practice devotion and sacrifice in order to go far with your talents.

It can help to build community around your path. Are you becoming a musician? It goes without saying that you should surround yourself with other musicians. Is your pursuit of happiness the pursuit of scholarship and knowledge? Surround yourself with others who are dedicated to similar fields as you.

Remember that the pursuit of your purpose is the meaning of the pursuit of happiness.


Overall, the pursuit of happiness isn’t a search for any external achievement, reward, or even approval. It’s an inward search for what makes us feel passion. 

By turning inward, we’re rewarded with self-knowledge, and with that, the opportunity to share our gifts and change the world. 

Why not start creating a path to your pursuit of happiness with the TelMD community?

Let’s Make Wellness Contagious!

happiness, happy, meaning of the pursuit of happiness

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