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Is Happiness an Illusion?

Updated on March 23, 2018

Happiness is a determined choice that must be made daily, with each sunrise.

Is the idea of being happy a reality, or just a mere perception of what we believe to be real?


The idea of being happy in the world we live in, may be thought difficult or even absurd by some. The state of the world in which we live in, can be a bleak and dreary place in which if we allowed our surroundings to dictate, one would be hard pressed to find happiness in such dire circumstances. However, happiness is a state of self-actualization, and we each have the ability to choose our own happiness. If fact, being happy, in the face of the state of the world we live in today, is imperative to one’s own well being and ability to cope, despite the circumstances.

Define Happiness

People try to define what happiness means, and what constitutes making someone happy. Having the sense of defining one’s own happiness, anyone can choose to remain happy despite the environment in which they are exposed to. It may be impossible for anyone to remain in a constant state of happiness at all times, because there are many bleak and saddening things that take place in the world in which we live in, but it is also possible for a person to choose for themselves to be happy despite the state of the world. Mark Kingwell addressed in his essays, In Pursuit of Happiness, that understanding happiness is the goal for most people, since happiness lies at the cornerstone of our lives. He states, “The desire to understand happiness, to get hold of it, is one that is common in our culture, central to our many daily judgments about life, love, work, politics, and play.” (p. 531). Kingwell also referred to David Lykken with, ““People who have to go to work in overalls on the bus can feel as happy as people who wear suits and ties and drive a Mercedes,”” (p. 531). This statement shows that people have the choice to determine their own definition of happiness, and can choose to be happy in differing circumstances.

Perceived Happiness

People have the ability to determine their own sense of happiness based on what makes them feel good and what brings them pleasure. Being able to find pleasure in purposeful things are one of the biggest reasons that people are enabled with the ability to cope with situations and circumstances that they face throughout their lives. Being able to turn off the evening news and read a book or go for a walk gives a person the ability to tune out the state of the world we live in, if even for a brief moment in time, and find something that brings them peace and joy to keep them in a state of mental well-being and provide them the ability to maintain a sense of happiness in their lives. In an essay written by Martin Seligman Acacia Sparks, and Tracy Steen, titled, A Balanced Psychology and a Full Life, it is stated, “A second route to happiness involves the pursuit of ‘gratification’. The key characteristic of a gratification is that it engages us fully. It absorbs us. Individuals may find gratification in participating in a great conversation, fixing a bike, reading a good book, teaching a child, playing the guitar or accomplishing a difficult task at work.” (p. 539). People look for what brings them personal gratification and satisfaction, they can choose to focus and capitalize on those feelings more so than choosing to dwell on the state of the world or affairs of their surroundings.

The state of happiness

Happiness can be said, is a state in which one lives, fully lives, to the extent of their potential and pleasure. In an essay titled, Finding Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it is stated “So what does “to live” mean in this context? Obviously, it doesn’t refer simply to biological survival. It must mean to live in fullness, without waste of time and potential, expressing one’s uniqueness, yet participating intimately in the complexity of the cosmos.” (p. 545). Choosing to fully live and be present in one’s own joy and uniqueness is a more compelling reason to experience true happiness despite the state of the world in which we live in. Happiness is a choice that everyone has, and must decide for themselves to experience or to give in to the state of the world and let the world steal their happiness.


Behrens, L. (2016). Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 13th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from


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