The Happiness of Pursuit: A Lesson from Hector


Ask those around you what their ultimate goal or ambition is and most will inevitably give the same answer: to be happy.

It’s something that everyone seems to aim for, and yet, nobody can give a specific definition as to what happiness actually is, predominantly because it means something different to each individual. It can’t be measured or compared. I see endless amounts of blog posts about it on a daily basis – where to look for it, how to find it, lists of advice and projects to achieve it. Indeed, I’ve done a number of these sorts of posts myself. I also have no doubt that I could visit my local bookstore or go online and find thousands of books on the same thing. So many of us, myself included, are constantly reflecting on our existence and making a conscious effort to examine the levels of happiness we feel in a specific moment or a period of time in our lives.

Last night I watched Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring Simon Pegg. Admittedly, I had expectations before I even pressed the play button – based on the synopsis of the film I assumed it was about a middle-aged, middle-class bloke who has a mid-life crisis and goes off to find himself.


I suppose, taking the film at face value, it was exactly that – Hector is a successful psychiatrist, but has become increasingly tired of his seemingly perfect life, and decides to travel around the world to research happiness. As he travels, he keeps notes of the thoughts and observations on happiness that he gains from his experiences and the lives of the people he meets along the way.

It’s a story that has been told hundreds of times, in hundreds of ways, but it was the first time in a while that I had watched a film that had left me with a… feeling. It’s difficult to describe what that exact feeling was – euphoria would be the closest thing I could compare it to I suppose – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Why?Β It all came down to just one sentence, spoken by Christopher Plummer:

We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.

It hit me like a bolt of lightning. After suffering from varying degrees of depression for what seems like forever, a large portion of my time over recent years has involved heavily scrutinising every aspect of my life, and I have made drastic changes in the pursuit of what I believe happiness to be.

And yet, at no point in my analysis did it occur to me to figure out how I feel when I am actually happy.

I started thinking about all of the wonderful things that I have been lucky to experience in life, and while they were all very different, it occurred to me that each had a single commonality: I was happy during each one. I didn’t stop in the middle of any of them to reflect on my level of happiness, or contemplate ideas to make them even better – Β I lived each moment as it happened and only afterwards realised just how much I had enjoyed it.

Hector made me realise that it’s not about the journey we take to try and find happiness, it’s the happiness that is found in the journey itself. It’s a state of mind that happens during experience. Happiness is not something that can be ‘obtained,’ it just is.

So, I am going to stop consciously examining my levels of happiness, start living a little more instead by doing the things that I enjoy – spending time with people that I care about, developing the blog, running, trying new things, making a difference – and spend less time worrying about things that don’t matter.

What about you? What are your views on happiness?

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Image 1 Credit: Deb Fletcher

68 thoughts on “The Happiness of Pursuit: A Lesson from Hector

  1. Depression sits on my shoulder sometimes too so I’ve done my fair share of trying to figure out how to be happy.
    You’re right, it just is.
    Stop picking yourself and your life apart, stop thinking about yourself and your issues and inadequacies, and just live. Happiness happens:)

  2. I started a sort of happiness project about, um, 11 or so weeks ago so I thought this movie would fit in well. I was pleasantly surprised, it was great.
    Hope this day treats you kindly, Suzie and thanks for giving us the happiness of #SundayBlogShare πŸ™‚

  3. I have learned over the years that happiness comes in small packages and pretty regularly if I look for it and appreciate it. I find happiness in an early morning breeze, the songs of the birds in the trees, the fact that somehow the majority of my trees in my garden are managing to survive through this drought. I find happiness in the fact my patients arrive on time, well, relatively on time, they are in great moods, their parents are receptive to the plan of care I offer them and the administrators leave me alone and don’t pummel me with ridiculous demands about me seeing more patients, documenting faster and basically being a robot. I am happy when I can hit all the green lights on my way home, and I am happy to be home.
    I used to think clothes and things and vacations and all that stuff made me happy – but those things come by so sporadically and last for such a short time, it meant the majority of the time I was not happy – which is a ridiculous way to live. So, now it is the little things, the daily things, that I find joy in.

    • I was exactly the same – I was earning more money than I ever had before and frittered it away on stuff that I didn’t need. Now, I regret not saving it up instead! Great perspective!

  4. This is lovely and a very good point πŸ™‚ There seems to be a lot of stuff around at the moment regarding mindfullness and enjoying the here the now and I think it’s a similar thing. I think it’s important to realise that it’s harder to be happy if you are worrying about not being happy enough!

  5. I have commented a number of times in different Posts that, if you want to understand happiness, learn from your dog. A happy dog has Maslows Hierachy of Needs down perfect. Our Ray has regular meals, they may not always be exciting, but they are healthy and regular. He knows that he is loved and treated as part of our family and he has a comfortable “shelter”. Our home is small and not pretentious, but it is home. Finally, he has a few toys. If only we could all be satisfied so easily! Not only would many people be a lot happier, but they would also be a lot better off financially!

    By way of another perspective. I heard a story once (supposedly true) about an elderly man who apparently spent most of his day on a park bench, and sheltered wherever he could. He always greeted people with a smile and so one day, a man who had passed him frequently stopped and said “You’re always on this park bench, and you always seem to be happy” to which the elderly man replied “Yes sir. I am always happy here.” The man thought for a moment and then, not really expecting a particular earth shattering response asked “Do you have a recipe for happiness which I can share with others?” The elderly man said “Yes I do sir. All you have to do is keep your mind full and your bowels empty. So many people just seem to get it the wrong way round.” πŸ™‚

    • I think I need to print that quote up and frame it! I watch my mum’s dogs and all they need is affection, a warm bed, food and water, a good walk and play time. Simple, but perfect…

  6. Great post, and thoughts. I have been reading through some of your posts this morning and honestly have found a lot of inspiration. Happiness is one of the things everyone wants, we look everywhere for it, in jobs, other people, the places we visit, the ideas we share, in the end I think your realization is the closest to home. The journey of life contains within it the happiness we all are looking for. From a cup of coffee in the morning, to walking down the street, each part of life provides a chance to experience some level of happiness and that always comes from within and the recognition of these wonderful things happening now, right now. Thanks for the thoughts and the happiness that you provide! πŸ™‚

  7. Hi Suzie πŸ™‚
    First time here on your blog! Loved your post πŸ™‚ Being truly happy is just enjoying your life, simply and doing the things you love and let your passion drive you, which as I get older I am learning how to do!

    Look forward on coming back! Have a great day!

    • Hi Joan! Welcome – thanks for stopping by! I totally agree, and I think it’s something that gets easier as we age. I wish I had experienced these realisations a while ago though haha!

  8. I haven’t heard of this film but will have to see it. Thanks for the alert about something so worthwhile.
    As for me, it would bring me contentment, maybe happiness, to be able to leave a worthy legacy, something I’m trying to accomplish with my books. I’m certainly happiest with my family around me and am most sad when I can’t visit my younger son and his family as they live so far. My life has not been easy and continues to be a struggle, but I’m determined to rise above and do something useful. Even thinking about what I can contribute to others is more satisfying than worrying about my problems. Clinical depression is another issue, one from which I don’t suffer. I’m sympathetic to those who do.
    I hope your happiness settles around you like a second skin, Suzie. Maybe it’s recognizing all you have that makes you happy.

    • Thanks so much Sharon! It’s definitely worth checking out and it’s certainly now in my top 10… You always seem very strong in your comments. How’s things coming along with the books?

      • Strong in my comments – some say I’m intimidating. I’m trying to learn to temper myself. I’m dealing with a particular issue – not criminal, not health, not divorce, don’t want to state what it is – that’s taking much time to resolve. Once done, I’ll get back to regular posts on my blog and I’ll get into query mode for my books. I’ll let you know how it goes – you’re always so sweet to ask. Thank you, Suzie.

  9. Great post Suzie. I’m as guilty as the next for thinking of and posting on happiness, and maybe that’s it. When we are thinking it, we aren’t experiencing it. We need to just appreciate the moments we have, and not compare them to others with some arbitrary measure of what happiness is.

  10. I believe happiness begins in the pursuit of living. I am a big believer in “getting out there” and experiencing life. This doesn’t have to come in the form of jumping out of a plane or any other extreme sports, it can come in many quieter moments and even the mundane-ness of life- A walk in the park; picnics; watching the clouds form shapes; people watching; coffee with friends etc. Appreciating the commoness of life by living in the moment. Simple pursuits.

  11. I love your work! Having suffered from depression for years myself, I know that it is easy to focus on the negative, and forget how wonderful it is when we are happy… Great encouragement to me to be aware of my happy times. Thanks! DAF

  12. I’ve just noticed this post. This is so spooky! Guess what film I decided to watch on Sunday too. Yes – the pursuit of happiness. Spooooky!

  13. Reblogged this on graemecummingdotnet and commented:
    It is true that the search for happiness is very elusive for most of us, as Suzie describes so eloquently in this post. But it’s also true that, as we search for clues as to how we can live better lives (and happiness is largely an outcome of how we live our lives), we are often presented with potential solutions. The problem is that some of those solutions aren’t presented in a way that makes sense to us at the time. Sometimes it is simply the medium, the way it’s been communicated, that doesn’t connect with us. Other times, we’re just not ready for the answers yet – we haven’t had the experiences we need to be ready for them. Whatever the reason, as Suzie says here, this time the message came home, and she’s making changes as a result of getting it.

    I must confess to having that T-shirt (in fact, quite a collection of them), and suspect there will be more as life moves on. But I’m glad about that. It means I’m growing, and with each revelation comes another spurt.

  14. What a great reminder (your blog post and the movie, both of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing recently)! The pursuit, the journey itself, the here and now – it really is worth savoring instead of waiting to get “there.”

  15. Hello Suzie – sounds like you discovered staying in the moment. You are so right in what you say. For many people life is about I will be happy when………. fill in the blank. Age helped me figure out each moment is one that will never come back so I try to use ever single one doing stuff I enjoy. Happiness just naturally occurs.
    Great post – hope it helps ‘happiness chasers’ think.

  16. Great quote Suzie, and enjoyed reading your perspective on happiness. Happiness is the simple things in life, I reckon, moments shared with loved ones and friends that mean so much. As soon as we try to strive for an ideal of happiness we lose the moment because we are thinking too hard. I’ve found that practising tai chi has been helpful to me to find that quiet space for reflection that we all need in our busy lives. I love martial arts, and wish I was younger so I could do some more! Sometimes it is particularly difficult to focus on nothing other than the moves, to clear the mind of all distracting thoughts but when I do manage, I often leave feeling so much better for it. So it’s finding those simple things that add quality to life, listening to music, watching a funny film, going to the theatre, whatever it is that makes you smile just keep on doing it, to try to banish those depression blues. We’ve all been there, I know I have, many years ago, fortunately nowadays I’d say that I am the happiest I’ve ever been, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point, I was a bit of a difficult teenager myself, but now that I have two teenagers of my own I’m happy, the angst of youth has gone, and been replaced by a more calm, at times silly me! That’s not to say that I don’t get stressed or anxious at times, I still do, but possibly I’m happier in my own skin and accept my own failings, and don’t beat myself up about them, so that helps.

  17. Pingback: Is Summer Really Over? August Round-Up | Suzie Speaks

  18. Reblogged this on Suzie Speaks and commented:

    Its International Happiness Day, so I thought I’d reshare this post from 2015… Life has certainly changed for me since then! Please don’t like or comment on the reblog – hop on over to the original post and say hello!

  19. Hector is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to watch (LOVE Simon Pegg) but never got around to it. Just re-watched the trailer on YouTube to refresh my memory, and immediately added it to my Netflix DVD queue. Given that our girls also struggle with depression/anxiety, I’m thinking this is going to be a family night movie. Thanks so much for putting this in my path today, Suzie!

  20. It is so difficult to definine happiness, but for me, it is a series of little things that just all add up to a feeling of general well-being. A laugh with a friend, or even a stranger, a warm hug, a sunny day, beautiful scenery. A few of the simpler pleaures in life can be a huge mood enhancer. πŸ™‚

  21. I’ve thought a lot about this in recent years and am getting to the point where I’ve thought too much; I know the things I love and I want to spend as much time as possible enjoying them in the moment and letting tomorrow take care of itself. A timely post to read for me this one!

  22. I agree with Judy. It’s the little things that add up. A state of well-being is what I’ve been pursuing in recent months instead of “happiness”. It’s similar or the same or one leads to the other…regardless, they are connected. Cheers, lovely lady. πŸ™‚

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