August 12, 2019
Dear Ren Ruslan,
Here is what I think happiness is and how to get it. First, you can’t find it head on. Despite the Declaration of Independence, happiness cannot be successfully pursued. Rather, live a meaningful life—one that benefits you and others—and happiness will pursue you. So, what is happiness? I’d use terms like contentment, fulfillment, or even that 12-Step favorite, serenity. It’s a feeling of enoughness: The fancy term is satiety. It’s how you feel after good food, good sleep, good sex, even a good workout. Happiness also seems to result from the satisfaction of a job well done. What happiness isn’t is the product of having lots of material things, although the lack of them won’t bring it about either. Amassing ever-increasing wealth and possessions can never produce that feeling of contentment, which is true happiness.
So how can you become even happier? Here are some suggestions. (1) Have what Twelve Steppers call “the attitude of gratitude.” Reflect regularly on the many ways you are already blessed. As Meister Eckhardt said, “If your only prayer were thank-you, it would be enough.” (2) Punctuate your life with fun, from reading for pleasure to afternoons at the Y. Remember: The best Swiss cheese always has holes. (3) Choose to do things you like and screen out those you don’t. A certain amount of grunt work seems part of the human condition. Still, try to keep it to a minimum. (4) Spend your time with people you like. When circumstances require you to be with those you don’t, find creative ways, like questioning and listening, to make them more agreeable. (5) Help others. Love is a boomerang that always returns to those who give it freely. Finally, (6) never stop learning. Viktor Frankl survived Dachau in large part by transforming his environment into a learning lab. Never forget: The real university-without-walls is life itself.