To Read: The Happiness of Pursuit

a life coach's book review of chris guillebeau's self help book for finding your life path - the happiness of pursuit

If you don’t already know Chris Guillebeau, he became rather famous from succeeding in his quest to travel to every country in the world. He has since written several books, including my personal favorite, The Art of Nonconformity, and his most known, The $100 Startup, which was one of the first books that I turned to when I was starting my own business a few years ago.

I’ve just finished another of Chris’s books, The Happiness of Pursuit. I’ll be honest, this one for me could have been edited down a bit with some of the stories he shares of different people’s quests, and I did find myself skimming a few of the chapters. Although not as practical information-filled as The $100 Startup, there were still some great nuggets within this book that I felt were of value to share here.

The premise of this book is that having a quest brings purpose to your life. What is considered a quest exactly? Here’s how he defines the criteria (page 15-16):

  • A quest has a clear goal and a specific endpoint.

  • A quest presents a clear challenge.

  • A quest requires sacrifice of some kind.

  • A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission.

  • A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.

A quick note, as I was reading this book, I replaced the word “quest” with the word “goal” in my head, and that resonated more for me. I like the above framework for goals, and I think the criteria applies well to defining a goal in your life.

How to Pursue Your Goals

I live my life by goals, and find it tremendously fulfilling to work with my clients to define their goals and how to achieve them. If you have goals that you are working toward, you already know they can add meaning and purpose to each day. That’s the gift of goals, and those are the good days. When you achieve a goal you have been working toward, it’s one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

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Goals aren’t always that simple though. Sometimes we don’t have them clearly defined, and feel purposeless or lost because we don’t know what our goals are. Sometimes we take on too many goals, and set ourselves up to be disappointed when we can’t achieve all of them, even though it might be virtually (or actually) impossible to do so. Sometimes we have our heart set on a goal, and we know it’s the right thing for us, but we have to work really hard, make sacrifices, or spend money to achieve it. The moral of the story is we need to plan for our goals so we can make sure they are realistic, be clear on what they will take, and actually achieve them. Chris provides this structure (on page 111) that is helpful to get serious about your goal and to map it out:




Other Costs*:


*I consider other costs as sacrifices that will need to be made to achieve this goal, including anything you might need to give up to achieve the goal.

Here’s an example of how to use this:

Goal: Start a healthful baking blog by the end of 2018

Time: 10 hours initially, 1-3 hours weekly after it’s live

Money: Cost of a domain, cost of web platform, cost of baking supplies 

Other Costs: Time it will take to take good photos, potentially need to invest in some other program like Photoshop for photo editing, will have to bake regularly, and might eat too much sugar because of that.

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Unknown: Will I have enough recipes to share, can I blog regularly enough to get a following, will it be fulfilling to blog on this topic?

You can see that if you go through this exercise, it helps you really think out what that goal looks like, and what it will take to make it happen. Who knows, doing this exercise might make you realize that you actually don’t want to take on the goal you thought you wanted to achieve, or that your goal is slightly different than what you had in mind. The point is, it will give you clarity on your goal, and it’s a great place to get started.

Creative Goals

I do some coaching work with artists and writers, and creative goals can be their own beast in a way. Because creative goals like writing a novel, producing artwork for a show, or starting a jewelry making company, often require the artist to feel inspired or to be in the creative flow, sometimes those goals don’t get very far. I loved that an anecdote of a creative goal was included in this book. Chris includes this wisdom from artist Elisa Blaha:

‘I’m always surprised about the level of creativity that comes from setting guidelines and boundaries. You would think it’s the opposite — that having complete freedom makes everything feel more possible — but in my experience, that’s not the case. I like to say that sometimes to be the most creative you have to get in a box instead of the old stand-by thinking outside the box. Often, limitations force you to think differently about challenges and lead to better innovation and ideas. ‘
— Elisa Blaha (page 158-9)

I think structure is helpful for almost anything. Setting guidelines and boundaries around your goal, creative or not, will most likely help you achieve it more easily and at a faster pace.

Overall, The Happiness of Pursuit is a good read about the importance of going for what you really want in life, and what a great thing to be reminded of. I’ll leave you with this amazing quote from the book, to encourage you to set goals that are true for you, and to make a life shift if you are working toward goals that no longer give you purpose:

Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.
— Chris Brogan (page 234)