An Unconventional Guide to Happiness

Mark Manson

--

E very day, we’re bombarded with messages telling us that we need to be happy all the time — and that, in order to be happy, we need the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect life. And we’re made to think that anything less than perfect happiness is a failure.

But the reality is that happiness is not a destination. It’s not something that we can achieve by ticking off a list of accomplishments or acquiring more and more possessions. Happiness cannot be found outside ourselves.

Rather, happiness is a journey, and it’s one that we have to actively choose every day.

Let’s start at the beginning.

WHAT HAPPINESS IS — AND WHAT IT’S NOT

Researchers tend to focus on two major components of happiness:

  1. A subjective feeling of well-being. Essentially, what is your daily emotional life like? Notice it’s not “the subjective state of feeling good all the time” (more on that below). It’s about experiencing feelings that are more complex than simple pleasure — things like gratitude, joy, and meaning.¹
  2. Satisfaction with one’s life. When you take a step back and look at your life as a whole, are you content with how things have gone so far? Have you taken the risks that were worth taking to you? If so, even if they didn’t pan out, are you glad you did?

So in the academic sense, happiness involves some combination of subjective well-being and having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life.²

There are, of course, a multitude of ways one can try to accomplish these things to be happier — solid relationships, staying physically and mentally healthy, finding meaningful work, and so on.

And that’s all well and good and helpful, but I think it’s just as useful to look at what happiness is not.

So here’s my take on that.

HAPPINESS IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

We often think of happiness as the opposite of sadness, anger, or anxiety. But the truth is that negative emotions are a natural part of life, and they can even contribute to our overall happiness.

--

--

Mark Manson

Author of #1 NYTimes Bestseller ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’. OG Blogger. Psychology Nerd. I enjoy cats and whiskey. But not at the same time.