Review: The Art of Happiness April 22, 2007Posted by theoxymoron in Interesting Reads.
This is the first part of several entries I would like to make about the book “The Art of Happiness”. I will try to summarize the main ideas of the discussions between the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler and I will also try to add my own thoughts about certain topics.
The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.
The essential point is that happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events. It’s always better not to be dependent on external factors to be happy. Your happiness should be a result of your state of mind and attitude. So success may result in a temporary feeling of elation but sooner or later our overall level of happiness tends to migrate back to a certain baseline. After a appropriate time period we always fall back to our day-to-day level of happiness. The length of that period depends on the importance of that event.
The interesting question is: Is it possible to modify the level of this baseline so that our “normal” happiness is on a higher level ?
Comparing a present situation with the past or comparing ourselves to others is very often the main source of unhappiness. For example let’s take a look at the income of a person and let’s assume that this year it is about $20’000. And let’s further assume that the person is happy right now. After months or maybe a year (that depends on the person) that person normally isn’t happy anymore with his income because he got used to this specific amount. After a pay raise for example to $25’000 he will be happy again, but it will not last forever, so the absolute amount can’t be a factor to be happy. It’s the pay raise itself that makes the person happy, but unfortunately only for a short time period. I think that the more frequent one gets such pay raises the shorter the time will be that the person is happy.
The second comparison we make and which makes us unhappy is the comparison with others. Most people can’t be happy if the neighbor is making more money. The absolute amount is not important anymore even if it is way too much to spend in a life time, people can be unhappy if someone else earns more.
The key thing is to get independent of external factors.