Archived Story

Happiness worth the pursuit

Published 8:21am Monday, January 27, 2014

Happiness is an elusive thing. For every multi-billionaire unsatisfied with life, there are probably billions of people who live a life of poverty and are perfectly happy with their lives.

This certainly came to light with the fact that 51-year-old Elizabeth Vargas has been getting treatment for alcoholism.

On Friday, the ABC News journalist admitted that she’s an alcoholic.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that an alcoholic uses alcohol because they suffer from anxiety, stress and other painful feelings, and alcohol helps to dull the pain.

It’s probably hard for many to relate to Vargas’ pain. She’s at the top of her career making millions as a news anchor, she’s stunningly beautiful, she’s been married for 11 years to singer-songwriter Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis” is his most famous tune), and they have two children.

What is it about Vargas’ life that is so painful?

It’s hard to know. It’s likely her perception of her life and the objective reality are two different things.

It’s also likely that with great fame, money and success come great responsibility.

Someone once asked me the question, “How is that Tiger Woods doesn’t get bored playing golf?”

I assume that meant that, since he is so good, the game would get boring for him.

The reality is, Woods’s expectations are at a level that is so much higher than, well, everyone else, that he feels the same frustrations about the game as the average hacker.

While the rest of us get upset over, say, a double bogey, Woods gets upset if he doesn’t win the Masters again.

Of course, like Vargas, Woods has had his share of personal issues.

This quest for happiness is what prompted me to purchase the book, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin.

Apparently, she has discovered a formula for happiness that has eluded most of us.

While I haven’t finished the book yet, what I understand is that she is attempting to find happiness with the hand she’s dealt.

In other words, it’s easy to say the best way to be happy would be to sell everything, move to a tropical island and spend our remaining days lying on a beach.

Alas, it is not realistic. We all have jobs, families, homes and responsibilities.

There also is the reality that, even if I had enough money to sit on a beach until my dying days (and I don’t), it is unlikely I would be happy doing that forever anyway.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy vacationing on a tropical island doing nothing as much as the next person. This year, as we head into another stretch of below-zero temperatures in Minnesota, that sounds particularly appealing.

But after, say, a month, I would get bored. I’m just not wired to sit around and do nothing. I have to admit that to myself.

I’m sure after a while, I’d start weaving a house out of palm leaves, attempt to catch a tuna, or get a job selling surfboards or writing for the island’s local newspaper.

Selling, writing … sounds like things I do every day already.

Which comes back to my point. We need to create happiness based on the here and now, what we do every day, who we talk to and hang out with every week, where we live, and what we have.

The reality is, that statement is true for everyone. It’s true for the mother living in Guatemala who has to walk a mile every day to get water.

It’s true for one of the richest people in the world deciding which vacation home to hang out at this week.

I didn’t say it was easy. But it’s certainly worth pursuing.


Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at

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