I’ve been thinking lately that there’s a lesson here that goes beyond the pool. We all wanted to swim faster and the more hysterically we tried, the more speed escaped us. The same goes for happiness. Everyone wants to be happy, yet the more directly we pursue happiness, the more elusive it becomes.

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon. Think, for example, about your coming vacation. You are excited about going to the beach or mountains and relaxing with lots of free time. How happy you are going to be! Then you start to plan out what you’ll do, what you need to bring, what restaurants you need a reservation for. Soon you’re feeling a bit stressed out about your future pleasure.

Research shows that thinking too much about how to be happy actually backfires and undermines well-being. This is in part because all that thinking consumes a fair amount of time, and is not itself enjoyable.