'To Be Happy You Need To Do Something You Not Only Enjoy, But Admire'

We often seek happiness by choosing activities we enjoy. Whether this amounts to eating a good meal, reading an entertaining book, or parking ourselves down in front of the television, these moments of pleasure are fleeting. Programmer, essayist and inventor Paul Graham argues that if you're looking for long-lasting happiness, you'll only find it in activities you admire:

Image: John O'Nolan.

To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that's pretty cool. This doesn't mean you have to make something. If you learn how to hang glide, or to speak a foreign language fluently, that will be enough to make you say, for a while at least, wow, that's pretty cool.

Paul suggests setting your sites high and avoiding activities that don't automatically incite that "wow" for you. If they don't, it'll be tougher to feel truly happy about your accomplishments. Has this proven true in your life? Let us know in the comments.

How to Do What You Love [Paul Graham via Swissmiss]


    Whilst "admire" might or might not be exactly the right word, it's my experience that happiness (in terms of real fulfillment, not just momentary pleasant feelings) involves more than just doing things that I "enjoy". I would say that being around people I admire brings me happiness. Meeting difficult challenges brings me happiness. But going to see a movie, no matter how cool the movie, won't bring me happiness.

    I was trying to explain this very thing to a friend a couple months ago when my morale was down and he suggested that I go to the water park and just play for a while. I couldn't think of anything WORSE to do, than waste time by doing something that I knew wouldn't improve my situation. His response was that that was ridiculous of me to think that way, because he knew I always had fun at the water park. I couldn't come up with a good way to explain that a few momentary laughs does not happiness make, nor do a few laughs even necessarily contribute to it. I eventually concluded that people defined happiness differently, and I could no more understand the simplicity of his view of it, than he could understand the complexity of in.

    Happiness is being completely absorbed in the business of living.
    It is something that is realised later, and not in the present.

    Everyone's business is different, as is what they are absorbed in doing.

    I will not surf the internet on the floor ever again. I will set my sites high.

    (sights: sort of like the sigh sound Angus is making)

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