Are you happy in your life? These days, especially in the west, we never had it better. We are better fed, better paid, and better informed than any previous generation. But despite all this, we lack something very important. Happiness. Many people search long and hard for a solution but never find it. In this book called Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar says that asking ourselves, “Am I happy?” is not the right question to ask. Instead, we should ask ourselves, “how can I become happier?” So if you want to become happier, you are in the right place. I'll explain why happiness is important and how we can go about finding it. Let's look at three key lessons that I learned from this book.
Key lesson #1: Happiness is the ultimate currency.
It's obvious that we all want to be happy, but I bet if you haven't thought about it, you may not agree that happiness is the ultimate goal that we all strive for. Let's examine this. What is it that you want? I mean, you really want. Maybe it's a close, loving relationship. Maybe it's a nice house or a good job. Whatever it is, I'm going to suggest that the reason you want anything is because you think getting that will make you happy. To make this even more clear, let’s assume you have two options. First, you are in an intimate relationship with the person of your dreams, but you feel miserable. Second, you are alone but you are happy with that. Which one would you choose? If you are like most people, you would choose the second option. Because for most humans, happiness is the ultimate goal and everything is just means to that end. Tal says happiness is the ultimate currency. And in the end, not the things you get or you have, but how happy you are will determine how fulfilled you feel in life.
Key lesson #2: Happiness stems from a balanced approach to our present and future.
Now that we know happiness is the ultimate goal, the question becomes how to be happy? To be truly happy, you have to maintain a balance between your present life and your future life.
Depending on how people look at the present and future, we can put them into four groups.
The first, hedonistic people. They only focus on this moment to maximize the pleasure and completely ignore what may come in the future.
Then there are nihilistic who have no interest in life whatsoever and miss both the present and the future.
The third group are rat racers who live for the future, always working hard and suffering in the hope of better days to come. They have a “no pain, no gain” philosophy.
And finally, there are people who not only focus on the present moment and enjoy it, they also have a goal and look forward to the future. This group are the happiest ones.
The problem with rat racers is that they always postpone happiness. When we were a child, they told us just work hard to get good grades even if that makes you miserable because that will make you happier later in life, then we went to college, they told us to work hard so that you can get a good job after college. We get the job and the rat race continues. If we don't stop to enjoy the present moment, we will keep putting off happiness to the future and we'll never get it. So to be happy, it's crucial to have balance. Set appropriate goals to make sure you can have both.
And Key lesson #3: Intimate relationships is the number one predictor of happiness.
Have you ever had a day when you were really tired, but then your best friend invited you to hang out and you actually feel energized after that? Even though this may sound contradictory, but we know that dedicating time to deep social relationships boosts happiness. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, says that the main difference between happy people and others is that happy people have a strong circle of family, friends, and romantic relationships. While spending time with the special people in your life may not be enough to make you happy, It certainly plays a major role. During hard times you can get comforted and during happy times you can share it with your loved ones and get more pleasure by doing that. Friends are great for this, but stable and fulfilling romantic relationships have a profound impact on happiness levels and research shows that a deep, intimate relationship is the number one predictor of happiness.
So to summarize, first, happiness is the ultimate currency and the greatest human goal. Second, happiness requires having a balance between present-moment pleasure and future life purpose. And finally, cultivating close and intimate relationships is a necessity for happiness.
These are things you can do starting from right now. Pick up your phone and call one of your friends that you haven't talked to in long. Trust me, you're going to be happier after that.