What’s the best way to find happiness in life?
In some ways, that’s a silly question. There are many ways to be happy in life. Or unhappy.
But despite individual differences, most people can find happiness in similar ways.
A lot depends on attitude. If you try to make the best of every situation, see obstacles as challenges to overcome, and see failures as opportunities to improve yourself, then you’re already halfway to your goal.
When I was growing up, my mentor Brand Blanshard gave me some good advice:
“It is important to happiness not to think too much about it. The person who continually asks himself if he is happy is apt to miss his end. For happiness is, as Aristotle thought, a by-product of healthful and successful activity … What is important is to find what one can do best (generally also the line most useful to others), and then to do it with all one’s might. Happiness will come unsought.”
Avoiding bad habits and forming good habits is also important:
“I should warn a young person I cared about to avoid bad habits by early and deliberate effort. Regular habits about going to bed, getting up, working, exercising, etc. are an immense advantage. They are not worth deciding anew every day.”
The most important thing is a commitment to rationality:
“The [person] who has the least to regret, who does most for the community, whose judgment carries the most weight and is the most trusted, is the [one] who is steadfastly and on principle reasonable. I do not mean the ‘intellectual’, who is often an impractical bore. I mean the person who, both in matters of belief and matters of action, takes as his principle: Adjust your belief or decision to the evidence.”
And what will your life finally mean?
“There is no one ‘meaning of life’ … It depends rather on finding who one is, i.e., what is one’s unique combination of powers, and then finding through experiment and reflection what course of life will fulfill those powers completely.”
In the end, it’s up to us. It’s up to each of us as individuals, and to all of us working together:
“If [people] generally are to achieve happiness, it must be by their own intelligence and effort, not by some transcendent governance of history.”
Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”