the problem with the pursuit of happiness

Posted: June 22, 2011 in Confessions of the CEO, Fitness

I’m not happy today.  I have a cold, the kids are out of school and bored, we’ve been renovating our house for what feels like a hundred weeks and I’ve inhaled enough drywall dust to shit out a new house.  Though that is certainly aggravating my mood, it isn’t the source of my malcontent.  It runs a little deeper then that.

Our view in the West is that we should be happy and grateful with everything all the time.  If we aren’t we believe there is something wrong with us and there’s a thousand self-help books to confirm that.  After all we have everything.  Clean air, healthy bodies, sound minds – all good stuff.

But, let’s look at some the reasons we have to be unhappy.  We’ve got the death of the middle class, an astronomical rise of personal and federal debt and our government spending all our over-taxed money on what exactly???  We have a fast growing population and a potentially catastrophic mismanagement of our resources.  We’ve got 24 hour media that is based on entertainment and sensationalism and we have an epidemic of obesity and fast food culture…  I’m just scratching the surface here and most of us know it – even if we don’t want to talk about it.  Given all of this, why do we take our stress so personally?  It’s narcissism, but without the any of the perks.

Wouldn’t it be fair to be a little unhappy?  Wouldn’t it be reasonable for us to complain a little about these issues instead of collectively white-washing over them?  If our only agenda is the pursuit of our own happiness – who’s going to take care of all the above?

Sandy, you ask, what does this have to do with fitness?  Well, we need to be fit because the world is increasingly becoming a place which dulls our senses and our minds and we need to stay connected with our bodies, our breathe, and our abilities.  We need to be fit so we can lift things, feed oxygen to the brain, manage our anxieties, and meet unexpected physical challenges.  If we’re a parent we need to be fit to model solid health habits to our kids.  We need to be fit because the alternative sucks the life out of us.  We need to be strong in our bodies and minds to face our uncertain future head on – because happy or not, here it comes.

In health but with a cold,


  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Sandy. I feel the same way right now about grad school. I believe there are so many reasons to be unhappy about grad school. Yes, I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake-walk when I decided to sigh up but I didn’t anticipate the only support for me being the form of dishing out medications. Sure, there was a little support in the form of professors lending an ear, or fellow students as well as family but due to the intensity of it all, I really was looking for something more substantial, someone I could really dish it out to and talk to. I was / am unhappy and I needed to talk to someone who understands and can relate to the pressures that grad students face and this is what I get? A therapist who on the first day (I only went ONCE) suggests that I have an anxiety disorder and that I could “benefit” from medication. Yeah, thanks for that… SEE YA!

    Well now that I’m almost through this experience (thank GAWD), I know that the best things for me were someone to talk to who would simply just listen and even better understand (this was tough finding) and the other best thing was exercise. But not “just exercise”. I mean, this was common sense to me as it is for most people. It’s a certain kind of exercise. It’s consistent, challenging exercise that works. This is where HIt to Fit came in for me. The High Intensity INterval Training TRULY made a difference in my mood and mental state, and trust me things got pretty bad. It is like, if not better than, having a counsellor who truly and fully understands you. I feel grounded, sane, myself and ready to function in the various areas in my life, not just in school. But of course, it doesn’t and shouldn’t replace the people who do help you cope as well; I’m just saying it was a key component. I’m just very upset with the inadequate and potentially harmful “support” they offer graduate students at my institution.

    • hitgirl says:

      Thanks Jess – I’m so glad that H2F helped you get through. I’ve long been a proponent of exercise to treat anxiety and depression. I think it should be the first course of action. Peace. Sandy

  2. Mike says:


    Exquisite writing!

    I just re-joined your H2F circuit today, and I love it. (I loved it the first time I tried it a few months ago, my schedule is just all over the place.)

    Regardless, and to echo the post above, I also just recently graduated from my graduate program and, having finally got the illustrious ‘piece of paper’ in hand, I question if it will bring me the happiness I thought it would. Hence, this is why–for me–your piece really underscores the value of fitness as a cornerstone towards overall happiness.

    Looking forward to reading more! See you at H2F.



  3. hitgirl says:

    Hi Mike – thanks for the nice comment. Appreciate it! This line you wrote: “fitness as a cornerstone towards overall happiness” – says it all. Nice to see you yesterday. Sandy

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