No Purpose, No Progress: Why You Can’t Wait for Happiness


Stop hoping for happiness tomorrow. Happiness is being engaged in the process.

– Aristotle 

Every so often I come across an article that I need to share, and yesterday a friend of mine forwarded such an article: A Better Kind of Happiness.

As a Nutrition Coach, people come to me with goals of improving body composition, performance and health. Over the years, I’ve noticed that clients who make the most seamless progress are those who strive for performance. Anecdotally, I can also say that my health and body composition improved the most when my main focus was to improve my strength. The clients who I’ve always found struggle to make progress: Those who believe being thinner will give them a sense of purpose or happiness.

Before I found my calling in the world of health and fitness, I was just drifting through life. I was still the same person I am today, but I lacked a purpose. I wasn’t enjoying the process. Every day was an act: Do the bare minimum to keep a paycheque, work out to stay fit and leave as much time as possible to have (purposeless, hedonistic) fun. It was a daily ebb and flow of being stressed and of being relieved from stress, but never a steady flow of true satisfaction with life.

The aforementioned article discusses new research linking eudaemonic happiness- a sense of fulfillment through practice and purpose- with a healthier gene profile: less systemic inflammation (stress) and improved antiviral response (immunity). The opposite gene profile can be seen in people suffering from social isolation and depression, and based on gene expression a lack of eudaemonia can potentially be as damaging as smoking or obesity. Furthermore, hedonistic happiness without eudaemonia- doing enjoyable things in life but without purpose- does not express the same beneficial gene profile. The message?

You can feign happiness, you but can’t feign purpose.

You see, if your mind is one of anxiety, stress management and dissatisfaction with your current existence, your chances of improving health, body composition or true happiness are slim. The more onus you put on being happy in the future, via achieving a “perfect” body or living up to the standards of others, the less chance you have of improving the internal conditions of your body required to make meaningful improvements today. If your hope is that you’ll be happier when you’re thinner, or that a better body will lead to more Instagram likes and a sense of validity, you’ll never get anywhere.

When you have a purpose, stress doesn’t impact you in the same way. Long hours become shorter. Going the extra mile becomes gratifying. A busy schedule becomes manageable. As much as time seems to fly, life slows down.

Perhaps a bit long-winded, but all this to say: If you’re unhappy with your body, focus first on finding what gives you true fulfillment before placing all meaning in life on making superficial change. By filling your days with purpose, your body will be prepared for change and progress. Without eudaemonia, you’ll be faking it without ever making it.

– DW

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