Happy | Derren Brown

Summary of: Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine
By: Derren Brown


Embark on a journey through the teachings of Stoicism and Epicureanism alongside author Derren Brown in his enlightening book, ‘Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine’. Delving into the wisdom passed down from ancient thinkers such as Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, this book examines the essentials of happiness and how it’s connected to our emotions, thoughts, and actions. Discover how concepts like simplicity, acceptance, self-awareness, and self-control contribute to contentment by addressing unrealistic expectations and focusing on what’s truly in our power. A timely and relevant read for our modern world, this book provides valuable tools to navigate through life with greater peace and understanding.

The Pursuit of True Happiness

The book explores the age-old question of what happiness is and introduces Stoicism, a philosophical school that believes in accepting life as it is. The author also delves into Epicureanism, which emphasizes that happiness is not dependent on material goods. Instead, contentment comes from accepting what one has or can reasonably expect to acquire. This philosophy applies not only to poverty but also to affluent societies plagued by consumerism. The pleasure of buying is fleeting, while the misery of financial worries is not. True happiness lies in embracing the bare essentials of life, a central insight of Epicurus that is the foundation of Stoicism.

Stoicism and the Power of Emotions

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius turned to Stoicism to cultivate inner tranquility during a turbulent period of war. According to Aurelius’ Stoicism, emotions are constantly changing in reaction to external events and are not permanent. What really stings is our interpretation of events rather than the objective facts in the world. Stoics argue that external events and people do not control our emotional reactions, but we do. We can start taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions by not dwelling on the past.

Letting Go: The Liberating Ideas of Epictetus

Life is unpredictable, and Stoics understand that the only things we can control are our actions and our thoughts. Accepting this liberates us from the urge to control every single detail of our lives. When confronted with a problem, we must ask ourselves if it concerns our thoughts or actions and try to change it. If it concerns anything else, accept it as beyond control and move on. The real cause of our negative emotions is not the external factors but our reaction to them. By letting go of our thoughts, we experience a truly liberating feeling, much like waking up to two school-free days as a teenager.

Focusing on Your Performance

The key to achieving success lies in performing well and not worrying about what you cannot control.

Wanting to be promoted is understandable, but obsessing over it is counterproductive. Although working hard and delivering quality work can increase your chances of success, there are still many factors outside of your control. Rather than worrying about these factors, it is best to focus on what you can control, which is your own performance.

Actor Bryan Cranston once said that the only part of an audition actors can control is their performance. Similarly, in the workplace, the only thing you can control is how well you do your job. By giving it your all, creating a strong work ethic, and delivering results as convincingly as possible, you can be proud of your work regardless of the outcome.

Don’t let excessive ambition and self-interested badgering ruin your chances of success. Instead, focus on your own performance and let the results speak for themselves. Remember, the only outcome in your hands is how well you play your part.

Relieving Anxiety with Stoicism

Anxiety often leads to an obsession with uncovering the hidden flaws of people and situations. Stoics reject this obsession by sticking to first impressions, which are considered objective truths. This approach emphasizes tenacity over perfection and is focused on preserving peace of mind. The technique of prosoché, or self-awareness, helps ward off troubling thoughts that could disturb inner tranquility. By practicing prosoché, individuals can accept their mistakes and move on, rather than feeling like a failure. Stoicism can help relieve anxiety by promoting a more positive and progressive mindset.

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