Philip Collins has a grand objection to the happiness index. It is that (£):
... there is more to life than the miserable business of trying to be happy. It matters more that a life be freely chosen than that it should be happy.
Collins attempts to drive home the point by writing of various types of perfectionist obsession:
Over the next two weeks we will marvel at people who have dedicated their lives to the skill of running at a large mat with a pole and throwing themselves over a bar. There will be people who have spent most of their young lives perfecting a somersault on a beam about the width of a horse hair. Win or lose, these are vocational, obsessional choices about how to live.
He also details how many figures there have been - in literature, art, music - who devoted themselves to 'compulsive creativity, not stable happiness'.
Of course, the pursuit of happiness is precisely one of life's more central choices, though the ways of this pursuit are as often as not indirect ones. And no one who has found their way to being reasonably happy should belittle the absence of some of its necessary material preconditions in the lives of others. Yet Collins's point is a good one, all the same. It might be suggested against it that the obsessives whom he cites were really after happiness through their obsessions; they would have been less happy had they been unable to focus on these. That may sometimes be true, but it doesn't have to be: psychological contentment isn't always a result of being driven, or even of achieving some chosen end.
And when a person's potential happiness conflicts with their chosen ends, there's no question but that it's the freedom to choose that should have priority and not a judgement (someone else's) about what would make the person in question happy. Here are three circumstances in which an individual might want to pursue a course that will not make them happy but is nonetheless more important to them than their own happiness. (a) The case of wanting to achieve something in one's profession or field of endeavour, come what may so far as happiness is concerned. (b) The case of feeling one has an obligation to others which one must not fail in, however hard it may be to fulfil it. (c) The case of feeling a need to act against grave injustices whether or not doing so will enhance one's own life.