Good Life

The four cornerstones of a happier life

The four cornerstones of a happier life

If you’re convinced that an abundance of wealth and fame directly translates to increased happiness, it’s time to reconsider. Research indicates that an excess of both can actually lead to unhappiness. The distinction lies in the fact that, while fame is not a prerequisite for happiness, a certain level of wealth is essential for a happier life.

A more constructive perspective on happiness may be likened to the three macronutrients essential for a fulfilling life. Similar to maintaining a well-balanced diet with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, achieving a happier life involves balancing three crucial ‘macronutrients’ specific to well-being. These are:

A. Enjoyment

Distinguish enjoyment from mere pleasure. Enjoyment is a product of your own efforts, a creation, whereas pleasure is something that befalls you. Pleasure is the light-headed feeling induced by alcohol, while enjoyment is the gratification of savoring a well-understood, ideally shared, good wine.

Pleasure tends to be addictive and primal, whereas enjoyment is a conscious choice rooted in humanity. Opt for seeking enjoyment over mere pleasure to achieve a happier life.

B. Satisfaction

Striking a delicate balance between contentment and avoiding stagnation in life is crucial. Often, we exert considerable effort to achieve something, only to find that the pleasure of satisfaction is fleeting. Observing others attain more or possess more can lead to discontent.

Recognizing that the feeling of satisfaction isn’t biologically designed for eternal endurance can foster a deeper contentment with our accomplishments. The Harvard professor Arthur Brooks uses the concept of homeostasis to illustrate this—our bodies are wired to seek balance and return to a baseline state from extreme physical and emotional conditions, preventing overheating.

C. Purpose

This involves discovering the meaning of your life. We’ve delved into this topic in our previous discussions, and one effective way to articulate it is by borrowing from the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai—the intersection of what you love, excel at, can derive income from, and what the world needs from you.

To recall these three essential elements for a happier life, think ESP. This time, it’s not about extrasensory powers but about enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose.

For this section, we can use 3Fs+W as a mnemonic. These are:

01. Family

Family is both the source of joy and challenges. True happiness involves facing both positive and negative experiences for a complete life. A contented family addresses conflicts through communication and love.

Giving up on family means losing valuable insights into yourself, hindering self-discovery and personal growth. Each family member is profoundly connected—your spouse completes you, children reflect your past, parents embody your future, and siblings mirror how others see you.

02. Friends

Deep friendships need intentional effort, time, and shared purpose. In today’s interconnected yet isolating world, the number of Americans with fewer than three close friends has doubled since 1990.

Our screen-focused lives offer an illusion of connection, comparable to consuming junk food. Likes and positive comments lack the substance of genuine friendships. Brooks advises having at least one close friend and up to ten good friends, chosen deliberately for meaningful face-to-face interactions.

03. Faith

While Brooks, a Catholic, emphasizes his faith, he acknowledges that any transcendent life philosophy can serve as this vital pillar to a happier life. Despite a decline in faith practices, the happiest individuals often adhere to a guiding life philosophy.

Starting with the pursuit of truth and love for others, faith leads to a more fulfilling and a happier life. Consistency is key, with a suggested 15 minutes allocated to contemplation and prayer. Faith fosters communion with others, allowing for both giving and receiving love.

04. Work

Work is an expression of love made visible, a significant source of satisfaction. The happiness derived from hard work and its impact on others can transform a seemingly unappealing job into a fulfilling one.

Brooks offers guidance on finding happiness in work, emphasizing intrinsic satisfaction, recognizing diverse paths to career success, avoiding work addiction, and maintaining a distinction between oneself and one’s job.

The four cornerstones of a happier life conclusion

The most effective way to internalize these happiness lessons is to teach and share them with others. This article was written in connection with the book ‘Build the Life You Want (The Art and Science of Getting Happier)’ by Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey. With the hope that you apply these lessons for a happier life.

We encourage you not only to implement these insights but also to teach and share them with others.