The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

image Absolutely loved this book.  It had psychology, existentialism, religion, and deep science all in one.  Highlight for me was that work, yes, work, actually can make one happy.  I always though work was the means to an end (at least that is what I have heard many people say), but for me, whenever I worked, I gained joy, satisfaction and self fulfillment.  Reading this book gave me an understanding why for me ‘work’ was never ‘work’ but always a passion – and why I always found ‘work’ rewarding – and never considered it really working.

 

The excerpts that I really liked from the book are here:

 

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (Jonathan Haidt)
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We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill  us makes us stronger, but that is a dangerous oversimplification. Many of  the things that don’t kill you can damage you for life. Recent research on  "posttraumatic growth" reveals when and why people grow from adversity,  and what you can do to prepare yourself for trauma, or to cope with it after  the fact.

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Human thinking depends on metaphor. We understand new or complex  things in relation to things we already know.3

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An emotionally   intelligent person has a skilled rider who knows how to distract and  coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills.

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When controlled processing tries to influence thought ("Don’t think  about a white hear!"), it sets up an explicit goal. And whenever one pursues  a goal, a part of the mind automatically monitors progress, so that it can order   corrections or know when success has been achieved.

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Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and their  reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each other. When you refute a  person’s argument, does she generally change her mind and agree with

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"No man can ever be secure until he has been forsaken by  Fortune."6

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"Nothing is miserable unless you think it  so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content  with it."’

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We can’t just will ourselves to see everything as  good because our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations,  and setbacks.

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As Buddha said: "When a man  knows the solitude of silence, and feels the joy of quietness, he is then free  from fear and sin."35

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Buddha got it exactly right: You need a method for taming
the elephant, for changing your mind gradually. Meditation, cognitive therapy,   and Prozac are three effective means of doing so.

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Concession leads  to concession. In financial bargaining, too, people who stake out an extreme  first position and then move toward the middle end up doing better than  those who state a more reasonable first position and then hold fast.27

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If you can reappraise the salesman’s move for what it is-an effort  to exploit you-you’ll feel entitled to exploit him right hack. Accept the gift  or concession with a feeling of victory you are exploiting an exploiter-not   mindless obligation.

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Meditation has been shown to make people calmer, less  reactive to the ups and downs and petty provocations of life.35 Meditation is  the Eastern way of training yourself to take things philosophically.

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He advises using many of the same techniques that Aaron Beck  used for depression: Write down your thoughts, learn to recognize the distortions   in your thoughts, and then think of a more appropriate thought.

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In other words, when it comes to goal pursuit, it really is  the journey that counts, not the destination. Set for yourself any goal you  want. Most of the pleasure will be had along the way, with every step that  takes you closer. The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than  the relief of taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike.

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a happiness hypothesis that asserts that striving to obtain  goods and goals in the external world cannot bring you more than momentary   happiness. You must work on your internal

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a happiness hypothesis that asserts that striving to obtain  goods and goals in the external world cannot bring you more than momentary   happiness. You must work on your internal world.

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A good marriage  is one of the life-factors most strongly and consistently associated with  happiness.

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You never adapt to interpersonal conflict;45  it damages every day, even days when you don’t see the other person but  ruminate about the conflict nonetheless.

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Eating a quart of ice cream in  an afternoon or listening to a new CD ten times in a row are good ways  to overdose and deaden yourself to future pleasure.

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Seligman suggests that the key to finding  your own gratifications is to know your own strengths.53

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www.authcntichappiness.org.

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Conspicuous and inconspicuous consumption   follow different psychological rules. Conspicuous consumption refers  to things that are visible to others and that are taken as markers of a person’s  relative success. These goods are subject to a kind of arms race, where their  value comes not so much from their objective properties as from the statement   they make about their owner.

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Conspicuous consumption is  a zero-sum game: Each person’s move up devalues the possessions of others.   Furthermore, it’s difficult to persuade an entire group or subculture to  ratchet down, even though everyone would be better off, on average, if they  all went back to simple watches.

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Inconspicuous consumption, on the other  hand, refers to goods and activities that are valued for themselves, that are  usually consumed more privately, and that are not bought for the purpose of
achieving status.

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"doing versus having."

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Activities connect us to others; objects often separate us.

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Yet, when people are actually given a larger array of choices-for  example, an assortment of thirty (rather than six) gourmet chocolates from  which to choose-they are less likely to make a choice;

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The psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this the "paradox of choice" :61  We value choice and put ourselves in situations of choice, even though  choice often undercuts our happiness.

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Yes, attachments bring pain, but they  also bring our greatest joys, and there is value in the very variation that the  philosophers are trying to avoid.

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When children are separated from their attachment figures for a long  time, as in a hospital stay, they quickly descend into passivity and despair.

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This chapter is about  what we might call the "adversity hypothesis," which says that people need  adversity, setbacks, and perhaps even trauma to reach the highest levels of

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people who have suffered through battle, rape,  concentration camps, or traumatic personal losses often seem to be inoculated’   against future stress: They recover more quickly, in part because  they know they can cope.

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Optimists are more likely to benefit  than pessimists.28 Optimists are, for the most part, people who won the  cortical lottery: They have a high happiness setpoint, they habitually look  on the bright side, and they easily find silver linings.

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Cultivating  the appearance of virtue will make you successful, and therefore happy, regardless   of your true character.

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wisdom, courage, humanity, justice,  temperance, and transcendence (the ability to forge connections to something   larger than the self).

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If we think like gods we become like gods, if we think like demons  we become like demons.

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Divine behavior means not cheating  people, not killing people. Complete character. You have divinity, you are  a god.

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Peterson and Seligman suggest that there arc twenty-four principle character   strengths, each leading to one of the six higher-level virtues. 19 You can  diagnose yourself by looking at the list below or by taking the strengths test  (at www.authentichappiness.org).
1. Wisdom:
• Curiosity
• Love of learning
• Judgment
• Ingenuity
• Emotional intelligence
• Perspective
2. Courage:
• Valor
• Perseverance
• Integrity
3. Humanity:
• Kindness
• Loving
4. Justice:
• Citizenship
• Fairness
• Leadership
5. Temperance:
• Self-control
• Prudence
• Humility
6. Transcendence:
• Appreciation of beauty and excellence
• Gratitude
• Hope
• Spirituality
• Forgiveness
• Humor
• Zest
Odds arc that you don’t have much trouble with the list of six virtue families,   but you do have objections to the longer list of strengths. Why is humor  a means to transcendence? Why is leadership on the list, but not the virtues  of followers and subordinates-duty, respect, and obedience? Please, go  ahead and argue. The genius of Peterson and Seligman’s classification is to  get the conversation going, to propose a specific list of strengths and virtues,  and then let the scientific and therapeutic communities work out the details.  Just as the DSM is thoroughly revised every ten or fifteen years, the classification   of strengths and virtues (known among positive psychologists as the  "un-DSM") is sure to he revised and improved in a few years. In daring to he  specific, in daring to he wrong, Peterson and Seligman have demonstrated  ingenuity, leadership, and hope.
This classification is already generating exciting research and liberating  ideas. Here’s my favorite idea: Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.  How many of your New Year’s resolutions have been about fixing a flaw? And  how many of those

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and the human quest for meaning is Flatland, a charming little hook written  in 1884 by the English

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Eliade says that the modern   West is the first culture in human history that has managed to strip  time and space of all sacredness and to produce a fully practical, efficient,  and profane world. This is the world that religious fundamentalists find  unbearable and are sometimes willing to use force to fight against.

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Even atheists have intimations  of sacredness, particularly when in love or in nature. We just don’t infer  that God caused those feelings.

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When any … act of charity or of gratitude, for instance, is presented  either to our sight or imagination, we are deeply impressed with its  beauty and feel a strong desire in ourselves of doing charitable and grateful   acts also. On the contrary, when we see or read of any atrocious deed,  we are disgusted with its deformity, and conceive an abhorrence of vice.

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conceive an abhorrence of vice.  Now every emotion of this

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Jefferson got it exactly right. People  really do respond emotionally to acts of moral beauty, and these emotional  reactions involve warm or pleasant feelings in the chest and conscious desires   to help others or become a better person oneself.

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Oxytocin causes bonding, not action. Elevation   may fill people with feelings of love, trust,30 and openness, making  them more receptive to new relationships; yet, given their feelings of relaxation   and passivity, they might be less likely to engage in active altruism toward   strangers.

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chatter, much of which is negative (threats  loom larger than

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There is no God and  no externally given meaning to life, I thought, so from one perspective it  really wouldn’t matter if I killed myself tomorrow. Very well, then everything
beyond tomorrow is a gift with no strings and no expectations. There  is no test to hand in at the end of life, so there is no way to fail. If this really  is all there is, why not embrace it, rather than throw it away?

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the amazing thing I learned about plants is that as long as they are  not completely dead, they will spring back to full and glorious life if you just  get the conditions right. You can’t fix a plant; you can only give it the right  conditions-water, sun, and soil-and then wait. It will do the rest.

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In  the happiness formula from chapter 5, H(appiness) = S(etpoint) + C(ondi-  tions) + V(oluntary activities), what exactly is C? The biggest part of C, as  I said in chapter 6, is love. No man, woman, or child is an island. We are  ultrasocial creatures, and we can’t be happy without having friends and secure   attachments to other people. The second most important part of C is  having and pursuing the right goals, in order to create states of flow and  engagement.

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In Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs,  once people have satisfied their physical needs (such as food and safety),  they move on to needs for love and then esteem, which is earned mostly  through one’s work.

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Leo Tolstoy wrote: "One can live  magnificently in this world, if one knows how to work and how to love, to  work for the person one loves and to love one’s work."19

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Harlow had noticed: the overwhelming evidence that people and many  other mammals have a basic drive to make things happen.

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And you can see it in the lethargy that often  overtakes people who stop working, whether from retirement, being fired,  or winning a lottery.

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Dealing with the environment means carrying on a continuing transaction   which gradually changes one’s relation to the environment. Because  there is no consummatory climax, satisfaction has to he seen as lying in  a considerable series of transactions, in a trend of behavior rather than a  goal that is achieved.21

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We get more  pleasure from making progress toward our goals than we do from achieving  them because, as Shakespeare said, "Joy’s soul lies in the doing."

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Men who were closely supervised in jobs of low complexity   and much routine showed the highest degree of alienation (feeling  powerless, dissatisfied, and separated from the work). Men who had more  latitude in deciding how they approached work that was varied and challenging   tended to enjoy their work much more. When workers had occupational   self-direction, their work was often satisfying.

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If you see your work as a job,  you do it only for the money, you look at the clock frequently while dreaming   about the weekend ahead, and you probably pursue hobbies, which satisfy   your effectance needs more thoroughly than does your work.

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If you see  your work as a career, you have larger goals of advancement, promotion, and  prestige. The pursuit of these goals often energizes you, and you sometimes  take work home with you because you want to get the job done properly. Yet,  at times, you wonder why you work so hard. You might occasionally see your  work as a rat race where people are competing for the sake of competing.

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If  you see your work as a calling, however, you find your work intrinsically fulfilling   you are not doing it to achieve something else. You see your work as  contributing to the greater good or as playing a role in some larger enterprise  the worth of which seems obvious to you. You have frequent experiences of  flow during the work day, and you neither look forward to "quitting time"  nor feel the desire to shout, "Thank God it’s Friday!" You would continue to  work, perhaps even without pay, if you suddenly became very wealthy

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If you can engage your strengths, you’ll find more gratification in  work; if you find gratification, you’ll shift into a more positive, approach-oriented   mindset; and in such a mindset it will be easier for you to see the  bigger picture2 -the contribution you are making to a larger enterprise-within   which your job might turn into a calling.

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When doing good (doing high-quality work that  produces something of use to others) matches up with doing well (achieving   wealth and professional advancement), a field is healthy. Genetics, for  example, is a healthy field because all parties involved respect and reward  the very best science.

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People gain a sense of meaning when their lives cohere across the three levels   of their existence.37

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As you make  an offering to God, you don’t think, "What does this all mean? Why am I doing   this?" The experience of meaningfulness just happens. It emerges automatically   from cross-level coherence. Once again, happiness-or a sense of  meaningfulness that imparts richness to experience -comes from between.

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word religion literally means, in Latin, to link or hind together; and despite  the vast variation in the world’s religions, Wilson shows that religions always   serve to coordinate and orient people’s behavior toward each other
and toward the group as a whole, sometimes for the purpose of competing  with other groups.

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Group selection  creates interlocking genetic and cultural adaptations that enhance peace,  harmony, and cooperation within the group for the express purpose of increasing   the group’s ability to compete with other groups.

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Atrocities committed in the name of religion are almost always  committed against out-group members, or against the most dangerous  people of all: apostates (who try to leave the group) and traitors (who undermine   the group).

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The War-eiors: Reflections of Men in Battle that describes   the thrilling communal state that soldiers sometimes enter:
"I" passes insensibly into a "we," "my" becomes "our," and individual fate  loses its central importance…. I believe that it is nothing less than the  assurance of immortality that makes self-sacrifice at these moments so  relatively easy… I may fall, but I do not die, for that which is real in me  goes forward and lives on in the comrades for whom I gave up my life.e’-
There is indeed something larger

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"I" passes insensibly into a "we," "my" becomes "our," and individual fate  loses its central importance…. I believe that it is nothing less than the  assurance of immortality that makes self-sacrifice at these moments so  relatively easy… I may fall, but I do not die, for that which is real in me  goes forward and lives on in the comrades for whom I gave up my life.e’-

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McNeill quotes an extraordinary
passage from the book The War-eiors: Reflections of Men in Battle that describes   the thrilling communal state that soldiers sometimes enter:
"I" passes insensibly into a "we," "my" becomes "our," and individual fate  loses its central importance…. I believe that it is nothing less than the  assurance of immortality that makes self-sacrifice at these moments so  relatively easy… I may fall, but I do not die, for that which is real in me  goes forward and lives on in the comrades for whom I gave up my life.e’-

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Happiness  is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to  get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within  you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality.
Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants  need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection   to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships  between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between  yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships  right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.

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The Eastern and Western approaches to life are also said to be opposed:  The East stresses acceptance and collectivism; the West encourages striving   and individualism.

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the most important lesson I have learned in my twenty  years of research on morality is that nearly all people are morally motivated.

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Selfishness is a powerful force, particularly in the decisions of individuals,  but whenever groups of people come together to make a sustained effort to  change the world, you can bet that they are pursuing a vision of virtue, justice,   or sacredness.

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