We have talked about the possibility of making happiness a national goal, and one country has done it: in 1999 the Government of Bhutan anounced plans to target 'Gross National Happiness'.  But I think this is a mistake.  Happiness should not be a goal: it is the spiritual equivalent of pleasure, a signal that things are working well.  Happiness is a sign that things may not be perfect but, for now, you don't need to worry about them.  Happiness is not a goal, and neither is it the consequence of achieving a goal - but if things are going well, this may result both in happiness and in goals being achieved.   (It's another example of the classic maxim: correlation does not imply causality.)

What these things are will vary from time to time, and from context to context, but we only focus on one context at a time - so we can move from happiness to unhappiness and back again fairly quickly and easily on occasion.  It is possible to be happy in the context of our home life and unhappy in the context of our work life - or the other way round.

Happiness should not be confused with goals, in part because we it is a reasonable desire to be happy all the time, but not a reasonable desire that we should be achieving our goals all the time - if we are, it means the goals are too small and too easy.

Happiness is a signal that things are working well, but we are not always sure what timescale to focus on.  Happiness seems to come in two forms: short-term happiness is the equivalent of finding pleasure and avoidding pain; long-term happiness is the equivalent of following purpose and avoiding pointlessness.

Happiness is a very self-centred measure: a better option is wellbeing, which is generally seen as a far more holistic indicator - it embraces the individual physical and emotional experience, as well as the social and communal experience.  Again, wellbeing does not work very well as a goal, but it does work as an indicator that things are working well.


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