As audacious as it may seem to contradict venerable figures such as John Stuart Mill, Flaubert, or Sartre, I disagree with some of their views about the nature of happiness.
Flaubert: “To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.” I argue that this is Happiness Myth No. 1: Happy people are annoying and stupid.
Vauvenargues: “There are men who are happy without knowing it.” Heartily disagree. My Fourth Splendid Truth is “I’m not happy unless I think I’m happy.” Or as Eugene Delacroix wrote, “He was like a man owning a piece of ground in which, unknown to himself, a treasure lay buried. You would not call such a man rich, neither would I call happy the man who is so without realizing it.”
Eric Hoffer: “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”
Sartre: “Hell is other people.” [Actually, hell is other people, but heaven is other people, too.]
Willa Cather: “One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them…”
Alexander Smith: “We are never happy; we can only remember that we were so once.” My Eighth Splendid Truth is “Now is now“; it means many things, but among other things, it reminds to remember the happiness that is here and now.
John Stuart Mill: “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” [I reject this statement, but I would agree “Ask yourself whether you are happy on a scale from 1 to 5, and you cease to be so.” For me, at least, trying to make those kinds of tricky judgments diminishes happiness—I find it very difficult to answer a question like that—while the simple question, “Am I happy?” contributes to happiness.]
How about you? Do you agree or disagree with these theories?
“Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.”
— Georges Rouault
* Last night I had a great time meeting Isabel Kallman, a/k/a AlphaMom. A great site if you’re an alphamom.
* I’m preparing a new version of the book video for The Happiness Project, with resolutions proposed by readers in place of my resolutions. If you haven’t seen the current version, listing many of my favorite resolutions, it’s here.
“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
* A friend told me to check out The Blah, Blah, Blahg (love the name). When I went there, I saw why — the writer was writing about her thoughts about a happiness project.
* There’s been a lot of interest in the one-page discussion guide for book groups. Because so many people mentioned that they’re reading The Happiness Project with their church group, or in a spirituality book group, and the like, I wrote another one-page discussion guide that focuses on the spiritual aspect. If you’d like either discussion guide (or both!), email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com.