A remarkable book that will both guide and inspire, The Happiness of Pursuit reveals how anyone can bring meaning into their life by undertaking a quest.
We choose to embrace a quest. We choose to embrace an adventure.
We live in interesting times, a remarkable age that offers countless opportunities for personal growth and advancement. As busy as we all are, most of us still have enough free time to pursue hobbies and the development of nonessential skills. For the price of a plane ticket, we can jet off to foreign lands. Whatever we could possibly want to learn is readily available to us. Yet these opportunities can also be overwhelming.
After our basic needs are met, how do we choose a focus?
For many of us, the answer is surprisingly simple: We choose to embrace a quest, and we choose to live for adventure.
What’s a quest?
A quest, we decided, is something bigger. It takes more time and requires more commitment than general life improvement. Still, though, what exactly is a quest? How to define it? We decided to let the stories lead the way. Walking across the continent and not speaking for a decade? Yes, that counts. Giving up a well-paying job to advocate for women’s rights in Bangladesh … as a volunteer with no recognition for twenty years? Yes, that too. After much consideration, here are the criteria we settled on.
- A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point. You can clearly explain a quest in a sentence or two. Every quest has a beginning, and sooner or later, every quest will come to an end. (Not everyone will understand why you undertook the quest, but that’s another matter.)
- A quest presents a clear challenge. By design, a quest requires that something be overcome. Not every quest needs to be dangerous or next to impossible to achieve, but it shouldn’t be easy, either.
- A quest requires sacrifice of some kind. There is no “having it all” when it comes to a quest—to pursue a big dream, you must give something up along the way. Sometimes the sacrifice is apparent in the beginning; other times it becomes apparent only later on.
- A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission. A calling need not be some form of divine inspiration. It is often expressed simply as a deep sense of internal purpose. Whatever form it takes, people who pursue quests feel driven, pushed, or otherwise highly motivated to keep going.
- A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal. As we’ll see, many quests are composed of a long, slow-and-steady march toward something, with moments of glory and elation few and far between. You don’t simply arrive at the holy grail the day after you set out to find it. (If you do, it’s probably not the holy grail, and it’s definitely not a quest.)
To sum it up, a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout. Most quests also require a series of logistical steps and some kind of personal growth.
Is adventure for you?
If you’re already beginning to think about how to apply these lessons and stories to your own life, consider these questions. The more you’re inclined to answer “yes,” the more likely you are to enjoy a quest of your own.
• Do you like making lists and checking things off?
• Have you always enjoyed setting goals?
• Do you feel motivated by making progress toward a goal?
• Do you enjoy planning?
• Do you have a hobby or passion that not everyone understands?
Do you ever find yourself daydreaming or imagining a different kind of life?
• Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your hobby or passion?