30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 24: The Side Effect of Happiness

Lesson for the Day: There are, fundamentally, two ways of trying to be happy: the wrong and the right way; the direct and the indirect approach; the deliberately conscious pursuit and the unconscious discovery of happiness. That is to say, the first step to becoming happy is to take your focus off happiness. Forget about it! Allow it to happen, to ensue, instead of directly pursuing it. According to Dr. Frankl,

“Happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursued. It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts it. The more one makes happiness an aim, the more he misses the aim.”1

The “target” of happiness is “hit” in a round about or indirect way or, as Frankl says,

“[H]appiness … is the side effect of living out the self-transcendence of existence. Once one has served a cause or is involved in loving another human being, happiness occurs by itself.”2


  1. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (New York, N.Y.: Insight Books/ Plenum Press, 1997), p. 90.
  2. ———-, The Unconscious God (New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1975, 1985), pp. 84-85.

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