People who are intrinsically oriented have a strong desire for personal growth and desire to help. They also emphasize building and maintaining close personal relationships. Intrinsically oriented people regularly report feeling more satisfaction, vitality, and energy and less anxiety and depression than extrinsically oriented people. Happiness, according to biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard , is a deep sense of flourishing and an optimal state of being.
Happiness relates to how we feel, but it is more than just a passing emotion or mood; it is about being able to make the most of the good times and to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times in order to experience the best possible life overall. Psychologists say there is. Our circumstances like income, social status, and age—the things many of us feel we must focus on to achieve happiness—account for 10 percent of the differences in our happiness.
The remaining 40 percent of the happiness equation is reserved for intentional behavior, or things a person can do on a regular basis to become happier. Because of this breakdown, psychologists theorize consciously varying your behavior, attitude, and outlook can greatly affect your happiness.
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Ready to start pursuing your happiness? Dir: Roko Belic. The government tried to be helpful to the economy in modest ways. It facilitated the settlement of the frontier. It adjudicated and arbitrated the competing interests of the several states. But, excepting slavery, the noneconomic institutions of American society remained largely outside federal purview until well into the twentieth century. Pick a topic of social concern or even of social interest, and by now a complex body of federal activity constitutes policy, intended to be an active force for good.
This brings us to the question of measuring success.
Money and the Pursuit of Happiness : In Good Times and Bad
Whether you are a citizen or a policymaker, the same question arises with regard to any particular aspect of social policy: Are you for or against? Yes or no? For many years—certainly during my own training during the sixties and early seventies—social science faculties in our universities assumed a substratum of truths about why certain policies were good or bad things, and policy analysts did not have to think very hard about why the outcomes we analyzed were good or bad.
We knew. Fighting poverty had to be good. Fighting racism had to be good. Fighting inequality had to be good. What other way of looking at good and bad might there be? And what other way of measuring progress might there be except to measure poverty, crime rates, school enrollment, unemployment? In fact, by most such measures things got worse rather than better, and a fierce debate has raged about whether the policies themselves were at fault a view that I share or whether things would have been still worse without them.
But even as the debate has continued, it has been increasingly difficult for policy analysts of any persuasion to avoid wondering whether we have been asking the right questions. Fighting poverty is good, yes. But if the poverty rate goes down while the proportion of children born to single women goes up, how are those two vectors to be combined so that we know whether, in the aggregate, we are headed up or down, forward or backward? Fighting racial discrimination is good, yes. But if the laws against discrimination in housing are made ever more stringent and actual segregation in housing increases, what are we to make of it?
How are we to decide what course to navigate in the future? What is the point of food stamps, anyway? What are they for? Suppose that we passed out food stamps so freely that no young man ever had to worry about whether a child that he caused to be conceived would be fed. Would that really be a better world for children to be born into?
Or let us take food stamps writ large: Suppose that we made all material goods so freely available that parents could not ever again take satisfaction from the accomplishment of feeding, sheltering, and clothing their children. Would that really be a better world in which to be a parent? But food stamps serve and perhaps impede other ends as well. Ultimately, happiness is the point. To make the case for happiness as something that a policy analyst can reasonably think about, there is no better place to start than with Edition: current; Page: [  ] the stately and confident words of the Declaration of Independence.
What may annoy the modern reader approaching these texts is that these eighteenth-century writers never stipulated what they meant by happiness. The word appears in a sentence and then the writer or the speaker moves on. And so they did. They did not necessarily agree on the details. Some took their understanding from Aristotle and Aquinas, others from Locke, others from Burlamaqui or Hutcheson. But educated men were in broad agreement that happiness was a label for Edition: current; Page: [  ] a ubiquitous concept, the concept of the good-that-one-seeks-as-an-end-in-itself-and-for-no-other-reason.
The logic behind this concept is simple and highly intuitive, going roughly as follows. I enjoy getting a new car, let us say. Perhaps I enjoy it for the thing-in-itself known as a New Car, but I also obviously value it for other things such as driving places. Or: I value friendship as a good-in-itself. But I also use friendship for other ends besides friendship. Friends may educate me, which is also a good; they may make me laugh, which is also a good; or they may loan me money when I need it, still a third good. The same applies to political goods. An egalitarian may value equality as a good-in-itself, but he also values it for the other good things that equality facilitates.
Ethical goods are subject to the same dualism justice is a good-in-itself, but it also serves many other purposes. At this stage of the discussion, there is no need for us to try to decide what this ultimate good-in-itself consists of. We need only to agree that the concept of such a self-sufficient end-in-itself exists. To be discussed, it needs a label. That label is happiness.
The use of happiness in this, its ancient and honored meaning, nonetheless continues to sound strange to contemporary ears. The most obvious response to this is semantic: You can have no higher aspiration than happiness. By definition the traditional one , happiness is the only thing that is self-sufficiently good in itself and does not facilitate or lead to any other better thing. That other good, being good as you define good, would contribute to your happiness. If you say that perhaps not—that it is possible for something to be good that nonetheless does not contribute to your happiness—then you find yourself entangled in self-contradictions.
Let me add therefore another common understanding from the eighteenth-century tradition. It was also taken for granted that thoughtful people strive to live their lives albeit with the frailties and inconstancies of humans according to that understanding. Let me take this thought further. To imagine a human being not pursuing happiness is a kind of contradiction in terms.
Part 2. Happiness Quotes And Happy Quotes That ARE…
I will be returning to this densely packed thought in the next chapter, but as starting points: Happiness is something that a Mother Teresa is striving to achieve. And anyone whose highest good really is a new BMW is not thinking in recognizably human ways. If that seems harsh, note the italics. For those who put their signatures to the Declaration, a society in which people were able to pursue happiness was no more and no less than a society in which people were able to go about the business of being human beings as wisely and Edition: current; Page: [  ] fully as they could.
The job of government was to enable them to do so.
My assertion, and the linchpin of this book, is that what was true then is true now. The longer one thinks about why one is in favor of or opposed to any particular measure to help people, the more one is driven to employ that most un-twentieth-century concept, happiness.
The purpose of government is to facilitate the pursuit of happiness of its citizens. If catalytic converters are proposed as a way of reducing air pollution then air pollution remains the immediate problem at which they are directed and we had better do a hard-headed job of deciding whether catalytic converters are a good way to achieve that immediate goal. My goal is to make use of the idea of happiness, not trivialize it.
Rather, as I will be arguing in the chapters that follow, the concept of happiness gives us a new place to stand in assessing social policy. New places to stand offer new perspectives and can give better leverage on old problems. I will be discussing the pursuit of happiness as it relates to social policy rather than the achievement of happiness.
You cannot pursue happiness effectively if you are starving or suffering other severe deprivations.
But the thing is simply impossible. It may not be the most satisfying life you can imagine in its detail. Others with no greater merit than you as you see it may lead lives that you would prefer to live. But you will have the wherewithal for realizing deep and meaningful satisfactions in life.
Socrates and Happiness
If you reach the end of your life unhappy, it will be your fault, or the fault of natural tragedies beyond the power of society to prevent. And with that, we have cleared away enough underbrush to begin. Just as war is too important to be left to generals, so is happiness too important to be left to philosophers.