What a great day. I had my third epiphany about the nature of happiness.
Having an original thought (or at least, original to me) is one of the most fun parts of writing—and in fact, writing is the only way that I ever manage to do much thinking.
And today I had my third major insight related to happiness.
I’ve been vexed by the problem of how to answer happiness skeptics. Very often, I encounter views like: “What does it mean to be ‘happy,’ anyway?” “I don’t even think about ‘happiness’—that term means nothing to me.” “I’m concerned with other goals, happiness isn’t one of them.” “You talk about being ‘happy,’ I talk about being ‘happy,’ who knows if we’re talking about the same thing?”
And so forth.
I’ve struggled with these lines of argument, because they either require a long struggle with definitions of “happiness” (and I got more than my fill of that sort of thing in law school) or a long philosophical argument about the nature of the good life, etc. etc.
I kept struggling to come up with some satisfactory responses. I couldn’t just dismiss this important set of objections to the very notion of a Happiness Project, and I wanted to reach these folks with my arguments. (I have to confess that I’ve become a bit of a happiness zealot.) But I didn’t want to get bogged down in a set of questions that didn’t particularly interest me.
But today I saw my way clear.
Even the people who can’t accept the idea that a person can be “happy” can accept the idea that a person can be “happier.” And that’s as far as they need to go to engage with the ideas in the Happiness Project.
And this formulation is more suited to my notion of happiness, too. “Happier” contains the promise of advancement which is so crucial to happiness, and it also suggests that happiness isn’t a final resting place, a state that we achieve and then relax and rest, but rather a never-ending process of effortful steps toward a goal.
Maybe this epiphany can also help another vexing question: what should be the subtitle of my book?
The Happiness Project: My Year of Becoming Happier
The Happiness Project: A Year of Learning to be Happier
The Happiness Project: Is There an Atkins Diet for the Soul? (I’m kidding about this one.)
Zoikes, I love having an original thought.