Happier | Tal Ben-Shahar

Summary of: Happier: Can You Learn to Be Happy?
By: Tal Ben-Shahar

Introduction

Embark on a transformative journey to uncover the secrets of happiness and fulfillment in your life. ‘Happier: Can You Learn to Be Happy?’ by Tal Ben-Shahar delves into the realms of human emotions, revealing the intricate balance of pleasure and meaning that constitutes true happiness. In this summary, learn how happiness is deeply connected to various aspects of life, from work and relationships to personal growth, and the importance of setting self-concordant goals in the pursuit of happiness. Uncover the vital elements of a meaningful life, transform your quest for well-being, and find happiness in both the present and the future.

Pursuing Happiness

Happiness is viewed as the ultimate goal, and all other pursuits are merely steps towards it. Research has shown that happiness and success are intertwined, and happiness is worth pursuing in itself.

Have you ever considered why people hold happiness in such high esteem? Despite varying external goals, people ultimately view happiness as the ultimate goal. It is a valid life pursuit in and of itself and cannot be challenged. Philosophers throughout the centuries have deemed happiness as a primary human pursuit, with David Hume stating that all human pursuits are solely meant to enable people to achieve happiness.

It’s not just that happiness is a valid life pursuit; research suggests that happy individuals do well in diverse areas of life ranging from relationships to finance, among others. The underlying reason for this might be that happy individuals view the world as inherently positive, making them more open to good occurrences. Whether viewed as a means to an end or an end in itself, the pursuit of happiness is unequivocally worth it.

The Key Components of Happiness

Happiness stems from a combination of pleasure and meaning, with both necessary for true fulfillment. Pleasure is a crucial emotion that motivates and drives individuals towards happiness, while meaning provides a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment. To achieve true happiness, experience and goals must trigger both pleasurable emotions and personal meaning. Happiness is not solely achieved through pleasure, it must also be integrated with personal meaning to create a fulfilling life.

Striving for Present and Future Happiness

To attain genuine happiness, it is essential to strike a balance between the present and future; an evaluation of one’s current state and what is yet to come is crucial. People can broadly be categorized into four groups based on their take on the importance of the present and future. The hedonistic group values only immediate, self-serving pleasure, while nihilists have no interest in life at all. The third group comprises individuals living solely for the future and competing in the rat race. In contrast, the last group, who focus on the present, tend to have a better balance and, therefore, are much happier. Striving to be more like the latter is vital since solely pursuing future happiness usually leads to disappointment. Society often rewards those who opt to postpone happiness, but people can achieve happiness in both the present and the future by setting realistic goals. This can lead to fulfilling lives worthy of their hard work and effort.

Pursuing Your Purpose

Pursuing a purposeful life can be challenging, but setting self-concordant goals is key to achieving it. These targets should be chosen based on personal desires, not to impress others, and must align with principles of meaning and pleasure. To find them, reflect on life aspects that give pleasure and identify both long and short-term goals to guide you along your path. For instance, if your purpose is to help animals, you can start by volunteering and participating in animal rights protests. Adding deadlines to short-term goals will ensure forward progress towards one’s long-term ambitions. Pursuing a purposeful life not only brings happiness and fulfillment but leads to a better life in education, work, and relationships.

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