The Declaration of Independence Got it Wrong

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The Declaration of Independence spells out our “unalienable rights” as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

While I’m not going to dispute the first two, I’d argue that number three has caused plenty of trouble in many people’s lives. Here’s why.

According to the dictionary, “pursuit” means an effort to secure or attain.

That means we don’t currently possess the object of our pursuit. In the case of happiness, pursuit implies that we believe we have to achieve or obtain something to be happy.

But the truth is, we don’t. Happiness is a choice.

It’s something we can have at any moment of any day, regardless of our circumstances, how successful we are, how much money we have, or how many things we own. We can be happy by changing our attitude, appreciating what we do have, and deciding to be happy right here and now.

Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned by so many factors to believe we need to “be, do, or have” something more, to be happy. A new car. A bigger house. More clients. More money. New clothes. A more successful business. More freedom. The list is long. The result is we spend our lives chasing these things and believing when we just get there life will be bliss.

It’s time to wake up and realize that happiness isn’t found in stuff.

It’s not about being, doing, or having anything. We can choose to be happy right where we are, with what we currently have. That doesn’t mean we stop striving to improve ourselves or contribute more to the world, but we must banish the “if then, I’ll be happy” attitude. Because it’s actually a recipe for the exact opposite: constant unhappiness.



About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

7 comments on “The Declaration of Independence Got it Wrong

  1. Thanks Michael. I certainly don’t want to “diss” the declaration, or rewrite history, but like you I feel it’s a distinction that needs to be made. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Debbie, I think your distinction is a valid one. However, in regards to the Declaration of Independence, I think it’s worded perfectly. The writers of the Declaration were talking about rights, not just material things. They were saying that everyone has the freedom to engage in the things that make them happy (aka pursue). Remember that they were coming from a country with restricted freedom. There are still many countries today that don’t grant their citizens the birthright to pursue their unique happiness. Sure they could choose to be happy with whatever lot they’re given, but it would be awesome to know that they have the right “to do, be, or have” anything, or not. The pursuit of happiness is akin to “following your dreams” and “living a life full of passion.” The right to pursue whatever makes you happy is a true gift. I think the key to happiness is not just deciding to be happy, but actively creating the life that you want to live and being uniquely you.

  3. Tiffany,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you about the “intentions” of the Declaration. We do all have the right to pursue whatever makes us happy and create our own life. And that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, I think in the world we live in today, where we are surrounded daily by messages constantly encouraging us to “be, do, and have more” so we can be happy, too many people get caught up chasing happiness through those things and forget it isn’t found there, it’s found inside.

  4. Interesting point. Many folks do chase things and status instead of happiness itself. Another common meaning of pursuit is a regular pastime, activity, or occupation, however; perhaps our forefathers meant “happy pursuits”? I like Tiffany’s comments there.

    But I get the point. I have a similar issue with the “Law of Attraction.” By using the term “attraction,” gurus immediately take away something you already have (and then try to sell it back to you). Sure the BMW is delivered to you from across town, but you did not “magnetically” attract it like iron filings. All possibilities exist at all times. If you now drive a BMW, then you chose to pour your consciousness and energy through your inner BMW driver until it gained enough energy and momentum for you to live it on the outside too.

    Everything comes from within, including happiness. You don’t need to attract it. You’ve already got it.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Daria. I’m sure our forefathers didn’t mean for us to spend our lives chasing happiness. I think our modern day culture has created that interpretation. Just as you point out, many have spread misinformation about the Law of Attraction. In a concept I refer to as “parroting” in my book, “Breaking the Spell” I think too many “gurus” (and I use that term very lightly!) adopt what everyone else is talking about and use it to market their own business or thoughts. Far too often I don’t think they really understand what they’re talking about. But everyone else is talking about it and it sounds good so they jump on board. It’s a following mentality, one that I feel is far too prevalent these days. I prefer original thinkers, and those who aren’t afraid to stand up for what THEY believe in, even if it may go against the masses.

  6. cheers for the post and information! I think education is important for us so we must prepare the best education for our generation by sharing such great info with eachother!

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