The quote, as I understand it, is very straight-forward and pretty easy to understand. What Henry David Thoreau was trying to say is that happiness isn’t an object you can simply obtain like money or groceries. If you were to seek happiness out, the search itself is preventing you from being happy. Happiness is something that is subjective. It’s different for every person, and so what makes one person happy may make another person uncomfortable or even angry. You can’t live your every day life expecting life or anything in your life to just give you happiness. Maybe this will sound a bit harsh, but “life” doesn’t owe you anything.
Though, as harsh as it may sound, people are more in control of their life than they think. If they want to sit around twiddling their thumbs complaining about trivial things like how their life is horrible because one little thing happened that day, and talk about how “Why can’t I just be happy?”, well the answer is you certainly can. However, the attitude above is a depiction of someone who is choosing to not be happy. Now, understandably, there are people out there that have genuine struggles to face. For them, of course it is a challenge, but many are still able to be happy and have talked about it in interviews. Everyone has bad days. Maybe you were dumped and you really loved your significant other, or you totaled your car, and the repair costs aren’t affordable. These things happen, and they’re devastating, but that’s no reason to give up on ever being happy. That’s where the mindset of “I must pursue happiness” begins.
On the contrary, there are people that are very fortunate and yet still complain about everything. It’s simply an outlook. Happiness is something that comes naturally. What does that mean? Well, it means the less you expect, the more pleasantly surprised you’ll be. As you learn to let go of this “pursuit”, you’ll naturally do things you like, you’ll fall in line with people you get along with, and you’ll generally be a happier person. At least that’s how I’ve seen things for a while now.