‘Does Trying to Be Happy Make Us Unhappy?’

A friend turned me on to Adam Grant. He is a professor at Wharton. I listened to one of his podcasts, followed him on Twitter, and just read an incredibly insightful post he wrote on “Does Trying to Be Happy Make Us Unhappy?

He cites a lot of neuroscience evidence in his post, which I like. And, he makes many great points, which I won’t discuss here, as I want you to read his post yourself.

But, I do want to highlight a point he made:

…if you truly want to experience joy or meaning, you need to shift your attention away from joy or meaning, and toward projects and relationships that bring joy and meaning as byproducts.

I think, for me, this is super-critical. Joy and meaning are outputs, not inputs. Joy and meaning are the byproducts of actions we take, such as a project or seeing a friend. Joy and meaning come from “enjoying the journey.”

In particular, Grant writes about the mental state of “flow,” when you’re so absorbed in something that the concept of time vanishes. People in flow do not describe it as a happy state, but, afterwards, regard it as such.

For me, “flow” comes from intense meetings with entrepreneurs, being with friends, catching up with my partners, cooking for my family, writing, and fly fishing. I am so absorbed in those activities. I am in the flow.

To be honest with you, I meet with many entrepreneurs who seem devoid of joy. To be honest with you, getting into Yale College was one of the most anti-climactic moments in my life; I got the acceptance letter, was very pumped, and then thought, “Well, what now?”

I don’t know what makes you happy. But, I suspect, you know when you’re in “flow.”

Chase those moments, IMO.


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