Happiness: Summing Up a Big Idea in a Short Sentence

How to be happier.
Nov. 10 2009 6:09 AM

Happiness: Summing Up a Big Idea in a Short Sentence

Although it may seem reductive, I think people grasp and remember great truths better when they’re snappily summed up. I love epigrams, aperçus, apothegms, and aphorisms of all sorts, and I try to to sum up my happiness conclusions in catchy, yet of course profound, axioms.

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My greatest success so far: The days are long, but the years are short . That short sentence says it all. (If you haven’t seen my one-minute video , check it out.)

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I was thinking about my Second Splendid Truth . Just getting it down to these two statements took enormous effort on my part. It sounds so simple, but there is a circularity to these ideas that confused me for a long time:
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make someone else happy;
One of the best ways to make someone else happy is to be happy yourself .

So true, so true. But not very snappy.

But yesterday I hit on this!
Happy people make people happy.
This simple language almost makes this point sound trivial, but the epigram actually conveys what I think is one of the most important arguments about happiness—and it also refutes pernicious Happiness Myth no. 1 .

Also ...
Making people happy makes people happy.
Again, the language is simple, but the argument is one made throughout the ages by great philosophers, religious readers, and scientists.

I especially like the first one. Zoikes, I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from inventing these epigrams.

In other happy news: The Happiness Project got a mention in the new issue of Vanity Fair , in the "FanFair" section. Yippee! (Oh, sorry, did I forget to mention that my book is coming out next month?) In case you want to run right out to see it, it’s in the issue that has Robert Pattinson on the cover—very appropriate because yes, I am going to see New Moon on opening night.

* I was fascinated by this post by Christine Whelan, Self-Help Isn’t for Dummies . According to her research, and contrary to what some folks assume, people who tend to buy self-help books are people who already have a fair measure of self-control and want even more.

* If you’re in a book group and think you might choose The Happiness Project as a reading selection, please let me know. I’ll send you a discussion guide, plus I plan to give away some free advance copies of the book, and I’ll choose addresses from these emails.
? E-mail me at gretchenrubin1[at]gmail.com (don’t forget the "1") with the message "book group"
? include your name and address if you’d like to be eligible for a free book
? if you’re willing, I’d love to know a little about your group: how many members, what you read, etc. No particular reason, I’m just curious about book groups!

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