Defining your happiness will make you unhappy -- ask yourself this instead

Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives,” says the quest for happiness is too difficult to define and many say is impossible. It’s a way better strategy to focus on being “happier.” Following is a transcript of the video.

There’s something like 17 academic definitions of happiness.

Arguing about definitions and whether it’s calm, or peace, or contentment, or satisfaction, or hedonic well-being, or fulfillment, or joy, or bliss.

Everybody just constantly gets into this word swapping battle that I feel like does not really help anyone to become happier. And so I really decided that happy is a word that’s big enough to fit a lot of loose, a lot of definitions. It’s wide enough to incorporate a lot, and to just leave it kind of loose like that was actually better.

Now, of course, scientists have to have very specific definitions because they’re really measuring and trying to understand what’s happening. But for the layperson, I think it’s more helpful to think about being happier because even people who argue to me that they don’t think happiness is even possible or doesn’t even really exist, which I run into people like that a lot.

If I said, “But do you think you could be happier?” They’re like, “Yeah, I could be happier.” Everybody knows what that means.

And what’s really important is not to achieve happiness, which is some kind of, you know, utopia, some goal. Could you ever get there? Could you stay there? What would that look like? Really the question is can you be happier? Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. What are the things that you could do in your life that would make you happier?

And that tends to be much clearer in people’s minds. That they can see. When you start getting into, “Are you happy?” or, “What is happiness?” It starts to get very, very vague and confusing.

And I myself, you know, they do these things where you’re supposed to score yourself on a 1 to 5 scale on how happy you are. I never know. I’m like I have no idea how happy I am. The question itself drives me crazy and lowers my happiness. So I just avoid the definition altogether.

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