Feeling down? Ennui? Do you lack verve and a feeling of purpose?
Then read Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert (2006). This little book spells out how poor we are at predicting the future, including what makes us happy. Many people think that money, beauty, certain kinds of love, and “success” will bring meaning and satisfaction. Gilbert demonstrates that more mundane “achievements” are better ways to achieving our ends.
What gives us meaningful satisfaction? One thing is work. Most Americans I know think retirement will bring happiness, but the opposite is usually true. For every person who lives with joy, purpose and connection after the end of her career, there’s more than one person who slowly dies on the La-Z-Boy in front of his TV, more alone and depressed than when he punched the clock Monday through Friday.
The solution? Keep up with the Joneses (at least the ones who lived and died happy).
What? I thought I was the master of my fate, the captain of my soul! Well, I think the power of the individual to know what’s best for himself is highly overrated. In my own journey to a happy and fulfilling life, I have found that the goals I contrive have much less efficacy and success then tried-and-true ones like exercise, spirituality and cultivating community.
So do what the happy do and see what happens. It’s amazing how much we resist emulating other people’s success, but that’s where many answers to our problems can be found.