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I don’t know you.

I can’t describe your height, weight, or gender. I have no idea how much money you made last year, what kind of car you drive, your marital status, what part of the world you live in, or your level of physical fitness.

But I do know one thing about you, one constant that has been true for 99.38% (totally made up statistic) of the human beings who have spent some time on this planet. This one desire has driven men and women to invent, marry, divorce, conquer, give, steal, lie, sacrifice, fight, make peace, and sit in a Starbucks drinking expensive coffee and pretending to work. It has energized the rise and fall of nations, campaigns to evangelize, mass genocides, the development of the H-bomb, and lengthy debates over global warming. On some level it drives almost every action we take, from who we spend our life with to what we choose to eat for dinner (“hmmm….steak or lobster tonight?”).

What is it that motivates and energizes so much of our lives? What underlies the decisions you make all day, whether you think about it or not? What is this desire, this need that is so deeply etched into our psyches that I can, without ever meeting you or hearing your life story, know with some certainty that it’s true for you?

You want to be happy.

That desire, more than anything else, drives our daily lives. It is why you work hard or don’t. It explains why you watch the television shows you watch or don’t own a television at all. It underlies your choices to live a life of order and structure or to fly by the seat of your pants (if you choose wear pants at all).

If you have ever made a rash purchase, or handed a complete stranger cash for a meal, or taken up a new hobby on a whim, or pursued a religion or philosophy so diligently that your friends thought you were a fanatic, or quit drinking…or smoking…or over-eating (at least temporarily) or uprooted your family and moved halfway across the country or the world in pursuit of a “better” job you know what I’m talking about.

We spend much of our energy in the “pursuit of happiness.” Recognize that phrase? It’s so fundamental to our being that the founders of the good old USA put it on the same high plane as life itself, risking all they had in order to make sure they and their children had a fighting chance to go for it! They may have been a lot of things both good and bad, but they were at least cognizant of what they wanted in life, and we are most certainly their philosophical heirs.

I figure I’ve got about 2 more paragraphs before you bail and click on back to something else that makes you happier (see how that works?), so here’s the sales pitch. First, that list of things I started out with (the things I don’t know about you like your weight, what you drive, and so forth)—for some of you just reading that list made you feel unhappy. You don’t weigh what you want to weigh, drive what you want to drive, or hang out with the people you want to hang out with. I’m going to walk you through, and past, some of those things, and I’m going to use real science, done by actual scientists wearing genuine white lab coats (maybe), to explain some really weird stuff….like why the months we spend waiting for the cool new car is almost always more satisfying than actually owning it…or why some of the happiest people you will ever meet are people who “shouldn’t be happy,” yet just go right on loving life.

Perhaps strangest of all we will explore research that says the rise of our modern way of life has generally made us less happy, not more, and will probably continue to do so. Along the way I’ll share some of the choices you can make to get more of that magical elixir we all pursue (happiness, not coffee, though for some of you science says that might be part of the answer). And we’re going to wrestle with some things that seem like they should make us happy but that actually make us sad (I call these anti-happy). Eventually you may conclude that there is actually more to life than happiness, and we’ll talk about that too.

So that’s the game plan. If this doesn’t interest you, it would definitely appeal to some of your friends, so maybe you can send this link to them: markhphillips.com

Whatever makes you happy  ; )

 

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