Fortunately or unfortunately for you all, however you want to look at it, I am going to be sharing with you things I learn from a book I have to read this semester, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. It is a compilation between the Dali Lama and Howard Cutler, a psychologist. It's about how to find happiness, which the Dali Lama believes to be the purpose of our existence as humans. Sounds like a good purpose to me.
Here are a few noteworthy points (I think!) from the first two chapters:
1. A life purpose of finding our own happiness may seem a bit self-centered, right? Not really. Happier people tend to be way more giving, compassionate and interested in others than unhappy people.
2. Many psychologists believe each of us is born with a genetically influenced baseline of happiness. No matter if we experience a life changing event, say losing a limb or winning the lottery, eventually, we return to the state of happiness that preceded it. Keep that in mind when you think, "Oh, only if I had a new car..." or "If I only had a boyfriend..." It may change how happy you are for a period of time, but not forever. So invest in INTERNAL happiness, rather than external.
3. If we have a genetically predetermined disposition for happiness, it doesn't mean that's the only happiness we can reach. We do have the power to influence our level of happiness. But it takes effort.
4. Pleasure and happiness are not the same thing. Think big picture. Buying that new top you can't afford may give you pleasure...but it could harm your overall happiness when you are experiencing financial stress. Same with that extra martini, piece of cake, or whatever. Don't get me wrong, experience pleasure every once in a while, but moderation is key.
5. Happiness is largely our state of mind. How we look at our life. It really is about being satisfied with what we have. That's not to say be complacent, but when striving for more...think about what you are striving for. Take the Dali's outlook on cars, for instance...he says if you live in a place where cars are common and needed to get around, then sure, have a car. But just an average car because others may become jealous of you and your possessions. The author challenges him at this, saying, a nice car would bring him happiness and if it bothers someone else, that is their problem, not his. The Dali replies that he is wrong. Measuring happiness isn't about the action in itself, but about the larger result that it has. Think pleasure v. happiness. I, for one, feel that I think about others for the most part. But this seems slightly unfair. My job, my money, my car. But, he is the Dali Lama after all...so maybe there is something to his way of thinking. Maybe happiness really isn't self-centered after all, requiring we think about how our decisions affect others.
What do you think about the Dali's thoughts on happiness thus far? Would you give up that black Range Rover you've been dreaming of since you were 15 for the greater good? Do you think it really would make a difference? How do you define happiness?