Tal Ben-Shahar is the Co-founder of the Wholebeing Institute, the Happiness Studies Academy, and PotentialLife. He's the New York Times bestselling author of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness, and the new book Short Cuts to Happiness: Life-Changing Lessons from My Barber.
Tal was bitten by the happiness spider in college while studying computer science in Harvard. While doing rather well academically and socially he found himself to be quite unhappy, so he decided to switch majors to Philosophy and Psychology to pursue the answers to two questions: “why aren’t I happy?” and “how can I become happier?” He became focused on how he can help himself, individuals, organizations, and nations increase their happiness.
Tal felt that he wouldn’t be able to find the answers he was looking for in code, so he started looking to ancient wisdom from many people in the past. We’re told we should become successful and then we’ll be happy, but that’s something called the Arrival Fallacy. Success will at best give us a short lived spike in happiness; we need to do other things to increase our levels of well-being.
Happiness is tough to define but we know it when we feel it. You can tell when you are going through good times and bad times. It’s also important to differentiate between happiness and pleasure, because they are not the same thing.
Meaning and purpose are major components of happiness, but they aren’t the whole picture. There is no one secret to happiness. You can feel committed and driven, but still be generally unhappy. Physical wellbeing, curiosity, as well as emotional and interpersonal wellbeing.
Striving towards happiness is no different than other goals, you have to put in the work and invest in the effort. The journey can also be as fulfilling as the destination. You have to strive for something that is meaningful to you, that you can also enjoy the journey of getting there.
When someone asks Tal if he’s happy, his answer is “I don’t know.” He can say he’s happier than he was in the past, but happiness is a journey that ends when life does. We can always strive for more, but we have to accept that there are ups and downs.
One of the first lessons that Tal learned is that he first step is to allow yourself to feel unhappy and embrace the negative experiences that are inevitable in life. Don’t compare yourself to an unattainable, unrealistic ideal. When you accept negative emotions and difficulties, you open yourself up to happiness. When you reject negative emotions, they intensify. Taking action when faced with difficulties is the only viable next step.
Engaging in things that are meaningful and relationships are the other major components of happiness. Spending time with people that you care about and that care about you is the best predictor of overall happiness and well-being.
The first question for an entrepreneur should be “what is most meaningful to me?” rather than “what will make me the most money?”
Learn to fail, or fail to learn. The most successful entrepreneurs are those that have failed many times and learned from each of those failures. It’s easy to see the successes, but the failures are more valuable.
Write down things for which you are grateful and focus on the progress that you’ve made. When you do that, your job satisfaction increases and you become more successful.
When you appreciate the good, the good appreciates. Enjoy the progress, not just the outcomes but allow your ambition guide to towards more growth.
You will have to learn to accept the fact that you will never arrive. Small changes can make immense differences in your overall levels of happiness. Try to be 1% better than you were yesterday. There will be very few days that will create major changes in your business, it’s about incremental improvement and steady progress.
Reference: Short Cuts to Happiness: Life-Changing Lessons from My Barber, Tal Ben-Shahar
Commit in the next 72 to 120 hours to change through consistency and ritual action. Introduce new rituals into your life like gratitude and exercise in small doses. It doesn’t have to be radical change, make small changes consistently and that is what will shift the needle.
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