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Review: The Art of Happiness April 22, 2007

Posted by theoxymoron in Interesting Reads.
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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.

Basic Idea

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 Thoughts

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.

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Comments»

1. Andrea - April 22, 2007

I like your statements about happiness. I totally agree that the best and wisest habit would be to be happy within and not depending on other people, or depending on materialistic things. but I think it is a very difficult achievment in our society as we were brought up with consumation, being made valuable for things we do rather than for who we are..but those ideas can help a lot to get a bit of that spirit. I also think that a big problem in relationships is that people dont listen to what their heart tells them, but are often forced to live a certain pattern that is being followed by the term relationship or marriage.. A lot of trouble and problems could be missed if peolpe would live more out of themselves, live has got many presents in its box for us to enjoy, we can sharpen our views to the essential meanings and the core of the moment, accept the differencies there are between people, even take them as a chance to widen our own horizone, not trying to form other people as we want them to be but build a bridge to their hearts. would you give that idea a chance?

2. theoxymoron - April 22, 2007

Thanks for the comment. Yes I would definitly agree with that. There are a few patterns of society everyone wants to fullfill but the best would be to do what you think is best for yourself to be happy. I agree that other people can widen the horizon of your own thinking and that it’s not a good idea to change people.


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