Happiness is not practical

To the author, the pursuit of happiness makes more sense than mindlessly chasing security, which is nothing more than an illusion

Young handsome man smiling in happiness

“You are not being practical,” is a retort I often hear from people, when I reveal my apparently risky intentions. My response to them is, “You are right. I am not being practical. I am being happy.”

To me, being practical means conforming to the standards of thought and behaviour that the society has agreed as “safe”. Commonly, the advice is used to mean that if you do what you feel like doing, instead of what is considered practical, you will fail or produce an undesirable outcome.

Granted, you lower your risk by being practical and playing safe—but in the bargain you forsake any chance of achieving great success.

Our society places so much emphasis on being practical that unless we gather the courage and go against the tide, we end up being safe… and sad. For example, I don’t remember ever being encouraged to pursue my passions. Instead, the counsel I have received from well-meaning people has always tended to push me into making career decisions that will ensure that my future is “secure”. Not happy, mind you, but secure. Somehow security has come to represent happiness when all it means is avoidance of uncertainty, which many people find unpleasant.

Avoiding sadness ≠ Being happy

Over time, I have figured that being practical is often the difference between what you could’ve done and what you actually did. It means missed opportunities, suppressed emotions, and often—for a majority of people—a life full of regrets. So what’s the point of being practical if it leaves you unfulfilled? Is your goal to avoid sadness or to experience happiness?

Given a choice between being happy and being practical, I always choose happiness. I am aware that not every choice I make will end up working out my way. But the risk is worth it. At least I have the satisfaction that I made the choice NOT because it was safe but because it made me happy. That way, the pain of failures or undesired outcomes is something I am prepared for. Besides, it’s frees me from the bondage of practicality.

It’s worth remembering that some of the world’s most admired businesses today were once “impractical” ideas of a few freakish entrepreneurs. Some of the life-changing inventions were labelled as “foolish pursuits of crazy scientists”.  But then, like happiness, even greatness is impractical.


A version of this blog first appeared in the November 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Some solid points, I think we should also embrace what is. That is to say, embrace life as it unfolds before you, accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because happiness will never be reached if you can’t be happy with where you are.

    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Cameron Hooper

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