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.]
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.