The Yes Woman: Happiness is beyond our control; contentment is a better goal

Feeling down, I draw inspiration from a dog that appreciates what’s in front of him

Dogs have the ability to live in the moment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Dogs have the ability to live in the moment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Happiness is a debilitating concept. Various philosophers put forward explanations of what it is and how to obtain it, but, after much thought and reading, I have come to the conclusion that happiness – at least as our culture currently recognises it – is an illusion.

That sounds a bit sad, but it isn’t. It takes a weight off the shoulders. Happiness often occurs when the outside world steps into our lives and affirms us. A new relationship will elate us for a while. A flattering job offer or another achievement will make us feel actualised, joyful and valid. In the long term, however, the greatest stuff of everyday experience is encapsulated by one drab word: contentment.

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