7 Ways Our Pursuit of Happiness has Gone Wrong

My observation is that most of us attribute happiness to safety and security.

Are you really happy? If not, do you know what it would take to make you happy? Sure, “I’ll be happy when…” You fill in the blank.

My observation is that most of us attribute happiness to safety and security. Don’t you remember when you were in high school? Didn’t it feel good when you were accepted by the “in” crowd? I recall when I made the track team, I felt really happy. The truth was that I was happy not as much for the accomplishment as I was about strutting around school wearing my track jacket and walking around with members of the team. It felt good. I was far from the most socially or academically successful kid in my school. So when I made the team, a newfound confidence came over me and I felt happy. And you might be thinking, “Just leave it be, why analyze it. Happiness is happiness, let it be.”

But I can’t. Why? Because I have come to know that our pursuit of happiness is more about the search for safety and security.

So let’s see how when we think we pursuing happiness, we are actually pursuing a sense of security.

1. I will be happy once I am: Accepted

Certainly, when we are accepted into a group, we have the security offered by the crowd. This security will likely cause us to be happy. Yet, looking at it more closely, we give up much of our autonomy and individuality. Moreover, being accepted into an organization or institution with an elite reputation can feel really good. But if doing so is to establish or maintain bragging rights of superiority, happiness will remain elusive for you.

2. I will be happy once I have enough: Money

Money provides security because it purchases food, clothing, and shelter—vital ingredients for our safety. But money and the pursuit of it affords something else: the ability to be one-up from the next guy. This appears to provide security, safety, and decreased vulnerability. However, those over whom you are one up will not feel so secure with your wealth and likely look to take it away somehow or not want to be your friend.

3. I will be happy once I get: Attention

Getting attention, consciously or subconsciously for attributes commonly associated with success, can lead to a sense of confidence, thus security, and hence, happiness. Physical characteristics of beauty or physical strength are obvious ones. Other attention-grabbing security blankets also include certain jobs that lead to fame and fortune. So when we strive for these things, we think happiness will follow. Yet it often doesn’t. That’s because the attention we seek, often below our level of awareness, is for others to notice we are above them. And no matter how hard we try there will always be a whole host of other competitors.

4. I will be happy once I am: Being the Envy of Others

Similar to the item above, being the envy of others can bring a certain, albeit very sordid, sense of contentment. You may resist thinking that you could actually possess such emotions, but think about what you would do if you lived (in a very modest house) close to the neighborhood where the CEO of Coca-Cola lived. And although you acknowledge that Coca-Cola products are among the unhealthiest products, the wealth of the CEO would be hard for you and others not to envy. And, I would guess that most would readily offer up in conversation the fact that they live within such close proximity to a person of such high stature. However, as I wrote above, when the quest is to be the envy of others, therefore sitting on top of the heap, you risk becoming a target (the Germans call it schadenfreude). And the CEO who may be happy being the envy of others may derive a sense of entitlement which ultimately sabotages happiness.

5. I will be happy once I am: Being In A Relationship

Before you find your soul mate, you must first discover your soul. Too many believe they will be happy when in a relationship with someone else. This is more to relieve loneliness and to protect us than any other reason. True happiness will come when two independent people come together with the only needs they have are the needs to grow and share their lives. When one needs the other for happiness, it becomes what is known as a co-dependent relationship.

6. I will be happy if I know: Others are Suffering More than Me

Certainly, this one would be very difficult to admit; just think of the guilt you would feel. But haven’t you heard or uttered yourself these very words, “It could be worse.” Or, “I don’t have it have as bad as….” When we say these words, we are basically saying that the fact that others are worse off than us gives us some degree of security. And isn’t that what I’m talking about here? The place from where most of our happiness arises is a place of security. Knowing that we could be worse off, (like others), gives us some comfort. Now, I realize, some who are reading this are saying to me, “Speak for yourself, buddy. I’m not that selfish or cruel.” But, you see, such emotions come from our primitive nature—our Automatic Brain (AB)—which fires automatically, instantaneously and often generates thoughts, behaviors, and yes, emotions that may be difficult for us, but in a crude, animalistic way afford us security. 

7. I will be happy once I am: Resigned to Mediocrity

You have heard it, “Blessed are the poor.” Those who accept a simple life may indeed have found happiness. Yet, if one accepts this life because they fear any other, then they are committing to the same AB dynamics as the CEO above. This comfort zone may not permit the growth for which your true nature yearns and from which your true happiness arises.

Final note:

Ultimately, true happiness comes from a place deep within, below the layers of our AB. When we recognize that our security—whether it is being one-up from someone, staying in our comfort zone, or the object of someone’s love—is never the source of authentic happiness, we begin to gain access to our Divine nature. This nature is not influenced by our need to protect ourselves, because it provides the ultimate safety. Believing, trusting, and taking direction from the Divine within will lead us to a profound and lasting sense of meaning and purpose. It will lead us to authentic and meaningful relationships. And guess to what that will direct us? That’s right, happiness.

More more on this and other topics, get my free eBook “Fake News Stories by Your Brain” 


Charles F. Glassman

Dr. Charles F. Glassman, aka Coach MD, is a medical doctor, thought leader, & author who has learned that true holistic care arises when we balance mind, body, & spirit.

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DnoAngeliki AnastasiaCharles F. GlassmanMelissa Rose RothschildPamela Recent comment authors
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For me happiness comes from one person who really feels it. Happiness comes from within our heart and soul and cannot be taught by others. I believe we can find true happiness if we meet our soulmate. Your soulmate need not be a girlfriend or boyfriend but can also be a relative, a real friend or someone you might accidentally meet. Happiness comes from someone who really cares for you with unconditional love.

Melissa Rose Rothschild

I wholeheartedly agree Thank you Dr Glassman for your insightful wisdom.
I just want to add … that happiness is profoundly influenced by our belief in our own character … earned through the giving to others .


It truly all depends on your age and life experience. You don’t care what someone has honks of you at 65. Or what possessions you have. It become a keep healthy goal and I be happy within goal.

Martha K. Mulling
Martha K. Mulling

I was happy until I read this. Sometimes these awareness things just bring up issues one had rather not deal with. I am far from secure. I am poor, but I really am blessed. I do have Jesus and I am truly blessed. My insecurities lie in the fact that my doctor’s appointments are not a front seat item. Mine are rather, when it is convenient for whomever is going to drive me. I am an inconvenience rather than a treasure. I love my family.

Gul andam
Gul andam

All I know is that I live in past which was horrific I want to forget but it seems impossible to me .Although I have everything now and things have changed but nothing gives me peace.


I’m guilty of 1,2 &5, i would say. Maybe I also like a bit of attention paid to me, not too much though. I’m happier when I’m valued, included and remembered, and complimented, encouraged. I like to know people care about me, but I’m not sure they do. Family can make me unhappy, having no money makes me unhappy, or being constantly surrounded by enemies, negativity and abuse. You’re obviously right, I can relate to the pursuit of happiness being a bit off track. I guess mine is. I’m always comparing myself to others, thinking they are doing better than me, they’ve got family, friends, cars, holidays, they go places and do things. I come across pictures on fb of my Grandchildren when no one has told me they were there. My Father is abusive. I would be happy if I could just rise above all the unhappiness and loneliness, enemies and negativity. I think we can be even unhappier when our expectations are too high in any event, or of any person. What is happiness? Do we ever know when we are happy? A few people I know would say they are happy or lucky. But their happiness is different from my idea of it. Peace, health, a few friends, financial security and someone who looks out for me, takes me places and is kind, would make me feel a bit better. At the moment I’m at the bottom of the pile, and wondering why I just exist and survive. It’s not a life I’m sure I can carry on with. Maybe I do seek attention, deep down. Just enough to make me feel included. I don’t know what happiness is really. Mine is usually short-lived.

Gail Liming
Gail Liming

I don’t try to keep up with anybody. I live a mediocre life and contentment I find myself, I’m not hard to please, but as you stated, we all think at times we need more, that’s all a part of our human nature, perhaps a kind of daydreaming but not always reality. As long as we don’t obsess over what we don’t have I suppose there’s no harm in daydreaming. Thanks for your article which reinforced how I feel too about the matter.


I admire people like you who can say everything in a brief, to the point way. I’m long-winded at times. You’re an inspiration, and I love the way you conduct your life and describe how you feel. I would like to be more like you. I don’t ever try to keep up with anyone, but I’m always chasing more, striving for better ways yet I’m rather confused about happiness, what it is and how to make it last. It’s an interesting article and you’ve answered it very well. Thank you, from Margo

Angeliki Anastasia

Ooh Great Saviour of the miracle of Life, Dr. Charles F. Glassman! Your articles Doctor attract the mind like a Mega Magnet!! I totally agree with all your wonderful advice!! Happy is the person who can sleep with a clear conscience and enjoy miraculous dreams! Happy is the person who is Alive with a big capital A! We must enjoy life in the present moment, love, play, seek the magical, mystery Life! Happy beyond imagination is he who commands his soul to give great gratitude to God for Always and Forever!! Thank you sooo much Dr. Charles!🏆🏆🥇🥇🙏🙏💕💕♥️


Excellent read, a good bit of info. To ponder about and really think about what we spend our energy on. Thank you.

Robina fazal

Thanks!Doc.Charles F.Glassmàn 💖💐for Sharing with us an interesting..inspiring and thoughtful article about the true senses of happiness…and ways to be feel happy truly…and to lead life with zeal and zest…yeah it’s the inner instinct and guts to feel happiness..and to be happy..and letting ourselves in routine tasks…and in good company..time to be spend in nature.. Participate in healthy mind body activities.. inner Soul and mind peace gives us happiness..and healthy mind..wht more I can have v.beautifuly expressed the topic.. Thanks again 💐