a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

happiness is overrated

< by Mitra >

Happiness is kind of an incomplete life goal.

I think we all enjoy emotional happiness, from the simple pleasures to being bloated with joy — like the first time you ever saw The Dark Knight. Like me, you left the theater weak-kneed, light-headed, and susceptible to bursting into tears of happiness from the slightest jolt of a BatBike roaring by. We’ve all been there.

There’s something about life, though: It’s painful. People hurt us, systems fail, plans derail, fear overtakes us.

Don’t get me wrong: Fighting for happiness is certainly worthy. I would contend, though, that happiness isn’t our core desire. In our human hearts, we are all after something bigger.

Dave Cieslewicz, mayor of Madison, Wisconsin from 2003 to 2011, understood that “happiness is overrated.”  There are times in life when we are not experiencing happiness, but challenge. We are grinding it out in jobs that exhaust us, using every ounce of our wit to solve a timed puzzle, or finally telling someone we love them without knowing if they’ll say it back. While rarely our happiest moments, they are also often our most fulfilling — our most “alive.”

Dave captures what I think we’re all really chasing. Sometimes, we want to escape to mere happiness – but most of the time, I’d actually say we’re all yearning to double down, go for broke, and just use up all the human potential we have on incredible undertakings. We want this because somewhere in that undertaking, there is a supernatural transaction that happens: one where who we are and who God made us to be finally meet.

There is no better feeling — and it’s not happiness exactly — but there’s no better feeling than that feeling of running on all cylinders. That feeling that you’re stretched to your limit and using every ounce of talent you have. This is why people do all kinds of challenging things … run marathons and climb mountains and visit every major league ballpark. That’s fulfillment, and it trumps simple happiness any day.”  – Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Living for happiness is basically living in avoidance of struggle. Living for fulfillment is living every last shred of life there is to live.

For the big risk-takers, try God.

Happy living, (yes, even after all that),


For more on what it was like to be mayor, and the full text of Dave’s speech, click here.


  Larry Who wrote @

“…For the big risk-takers, try God…”

Ain’t that the truth? 😉

  abreakfastserial wrote @

It sure is. It takes a lot of fortitude to invest faith in something that transcends our power of understanding. But it’s worth it, no doubt about it.

  on thehomefrontandbeyond wrote @

wonderful post – thank you

  abreakfastserial wrote @

I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it! Thank you for the feedback 😀

  Glorious Mettle wrote @

“Living for fulfillment is living every last shred of life there is to live.” That perfectly sums up what I have been trying to figure out in terms of what I’m aiming for in my life. I used to think it was happiness. I noticed how short-lived that feeling was. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was missing. Fulfillment certainly makes more sense.

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