Bulletproof Happiness: What You Control

You can achieve bulletproof happiness.

But you need to know something first: Bulletproof vests make you look fat.

In other words, there are trade offs.

And you need to know something else: Bulletproof vests don’t make you invulnerable.

In other words, there are limitations.

Happiness that is perfect and permanent exists only in Heaven — if Heaven itself exists. Here on earth, we make do with what we have.

Your goal should be something that’s possible, not dreamy and utopian. You want to be as happy as you can be, regardless of what’s going on in the world around you.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about how to achieve that goal.

Buckle up: rough road ahead

History is unpredictable. Social conflict, international politics, and economic turmoil make it even more unpredictable. We’re living in one of those unpredictable times.

I’m skeptical about the cyclical view of history in the book The Fourth Turning, published in 1997. However, its forecast about the early 21st century seems eerily accurate:

“The next Crisis era will most likely extend roughly from the middle Oh-Ohs to the middle 2020s. Its climax is not likely to occur before 2005 or later than 2025, given that thirty-two and fifty-two years are the shortest and longest time spans between any two climax moments in Anglo-American history.”

A lot has changed since 1997 in ways that the authors couldn’t possibly predict. You can make up your own mind about whether the changes were good or bad. But whatever they were, they were certainly cataclysmic.

Our “crisis era” might unfold peacefully or in ways that we’d rather not contemplate.

Durable happiness

You want happiness that can flourish in peaceful times and survive in crisis eras. The most important principle is also one of the simplest:

You can control some things, and you can’t control other things.

Most things that worry people are things they can’t control. You can save yourself from a lot of unhappiness if you worry only about things you can control. In fact, don’t even worry about them: do something about them. Then you won’t be tempted to worry.

As for things you can’t control, try to accept them as they are. If they’re relevant to your life, then pay attention and act appropriately, but don’t get emotional about them.


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.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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