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The Impossible Dream: Cause as the Road to Happiness

I don’t see this one as much as the others mentioned because, frankly, the amount of time and energy it takes to pull off the others doesn’t leave a tremendous amount of resources for this one. However, I have seen this from time to time and so feel compelled to discuss it here. It seems that if a person eschews the others talked about so far (education, worklovechildren) it often is so they can pursue a cause as their road to happiness. This could be a religious cause, a political cause, or a social cause. Often, it’s a very good thing in and of itself.

The danger comes when working for the cause is no longer sufficient to bring about happiness. Instead, happiness is measured by the person’s definition of progress in the cause. In other words, because you’re putting in so much time and energy, because you’ve sacrificed relationships and career in order to pursue the cause, it had better start producing results.

Causes are notoriously slow movers. Fighting world hunger, promoting peaceful coexistence, winning the world for Christ, ending poverty, exposing oppression, convincing the other side of how right you are — none of these are movie-of-the-week kind of endeavors. They take the time and, often, progress is glacial. If after time the results are not what the person perceives they should be, years of happiness can dissipate, leaving only disappointment and disillusionment in their wake.

Causes are also notoriously enmeshed with charismatic, persuasive individuals. The leaders can be political, cultural, or religious. Larger than life, these figures are often found to have feet of clay. These clay feet cause the strong and imperious leader to crumple. When they come crashing down, their followers can get crushed underneath. When the leader falls, the followers tend to blend back into the crowd, angry, weary, and hardened. One thing they seldom are is happy about it.

SOURCE: Chapter 1, “Detours On the Road to Happiness,” in Happy for the Rest of Your Life by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc.

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