The pursuit of happiness, it turns out, is a race to be won — a contest, a challenge that all of us can actually win—rather than a mere whim of fate that we can only wish and wait and hope for. The six imperatives detailed in my book The Serious Pursuit of Happiness - and listed below – brightly light the paths that lead to a happier life.
Historically, there has been a time-honored view about happiness—that “the bluebird of happiness” may fly in the window if we leave it open. Similarly, Nathaniel Hawthorne memorably said: “Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” These passive views about happiness, eloquent as they are, have turned out to be false.
The relatively new science of positive psychology—one of the three legs of happiness research I analyze for you in my book—is proving that each of us can and should take positive steps on a journey to actively implement the six imperatives. And we don’t have to wait until the end of our journey to feel happier. An added incentive is that each step, no matter how small, brings with it an immediate boost in feelings of well-being. This motivates us to take the next step on the journey. And the next. And the one after that.
The ultimate promise of the knowledge in my book is to provide you—all simply set forth in one place—with everything psychologists, researchers, and other scientists around the world have found that people need to know to thrive. This promise assures that the paths and actions recommended are all substantively research-based and can be counted upon to reliably deliver the desired result—a happier life.
The underlying premise of the book is just as important: if presented with the specific actions for a happier life and if—and this is the big if—willing to implement these actions in their day-to-day lives, almost everyone can increase their level of happiness starting today—and often in a lasting way.
The Research-Based Approach
My approach has been to “research the research” and then use the findings as the basis for the writing. Think of this research as a three-legged stool:
- Published findings from over four decades of happiness research encompassing hundreds of studies of many thousands of people from all around the world.
- Latest advances and research study findings from the newest branch of psychology, positive psychology, which is the scientific study of what is good about people and life and how it can be made more fulfilling—as distinguished from traditional psychology’s focus on what is bad about people and how to best heal them.
- Latest breakthroughs in biology, genetics, and neuroscience—specifically as they affect our ability to be happier.
The Power of Synthesis
My contribution has been to synthesize the results from these three legs of research together into this one, small, easy-to-read book. And this synthesis has revealed an astounding consensus of thought on what psychologists and researchers from around the world have found: to live happier and more fulfilling lives, people just need to follow these six imperatives:
- The First Imperative: Seek Pleasure within Limits.
- The Second Imperative: Intentionally Think Happy.
- The Third Imperative: Intentionally Act Happy.
- The Fourth Imperative: Become a Better Person.
- The Fifth Imperative: Embrace Loving Connections.
- The Sixth Imperative: Make a Meaningful Contribution.
These imperatives are so powerful that you can turn to almost any page in the book and immediately feel inspired. The over 100 strategies and over 400 recommended actions that make up the imperatives are clear and practical, making it easy to feel more motivated to transcend your current reality and to seek to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
A Key Reminder
The most frequent factor that keeps people from living happier lives is a failure to change their thinking and their attitudes and ultimately their actions. They fail in the most essential task of all: to incorporate the proven thinking and recommended actions that lead to a happier life into the way they live each and every day on an ongoing basis. There are many reasons for this failure—often it is due in part to the levels of anxiety and depression rampant in our societies today. No matter what the reasons, however, trust that—except in extreme cases—the human condition can be improved by intelligently applying the advice in this book. Each and every statement is based on solid findings about actions to take that will not only make you happier but also healthier, more productive, better married, and longer lived.
This book offers a clear road map to a happier future. But having the map is just the beginning. It’s necessary to actually embark on the journey to a happier life. To facilitate this essential step, the book also includes chapters on how to construct a personal happiness plan and how to manage your limited time to implement your life-changing happiness opportunities long after your reading is done.
In the End
Life can be viewed as a roller-coaster ride down a long and winding path that is sometimes only dimly lighted to an often unclear destination. And, for those who do not believe in an afterlife, this destination is ultimately a dead end. We each eventually must come to terms with the paradox that life seems at once critically urgent and yet ultimately pointless. And, even though many of life’s chapters begin as mysteries without many clues, the life we are living today is not just a trial run. We need to make the most of our time on the planet while we can. Remember, our pursuit of happiness is a race to be won. Just investing a small amount of time now can “jump start” a lifelong journey to win the ultimate prize: a happier and more meaningful life—beginning now.