YES . . . according to the teacher of Harvard University’s most popular and life-changing course. One out of every five Harvard students has lined up to hear Tal Ben-Shahar’s insightful and inspiring lectures on that ever-elusive state: HAPPINESS.
Grounded in the revolutionary “positive psychology” movement, Ben-Shahar ingeniously combines scientific studies, scholarly research, self-help advice, and spiritual enlightenment. He weaves them together into a set of principles that you can apply to your daily life. Once you open your heart and mind to Happier ’s thoughts, you will feel more fulfilled, more connected . . . and, yes, HAPPIER.
Happiness as the ultimate currency
If we wanted to assess the worth of a business, we would use money as our means of measurement. We would calculate the dollar value of its assets and liabilities, profits and losses. In this case–in measuring a company’s worth–money is the ultimate currency.
A human being, like a business, makes profits and suffers losses. For a human being, however, the ultimate currency is not money, nor is it any external measure, such as fame, fortune, or power. The ultimate currency for a human being is happiness.
Money and fame are subordinate to happiness and have no intrinsec value. The only reason money and fame may be desirable is that having them or the thought of having them could lead to positive emotions or meaning.
Wealth and happiness
Money–beyond the bare minimum necessary for food and shelter (and I am not talking caviar and castles)–is nothing more than a means to an end. Yet so often we confuse means with ends and sacrifice happiness (end) for money (means).
Financial security can liberate us from work we do not find meaningful and from having to worry about the next paycheck. Even so, it’s not the money per se that is valuable but the fact that it can potentially yield more positive experiences. Material wealth in and of itself does not necessarily generate meaning or lead to emotional wealth.
Goals and success
People who set goals are more likely to succeed than people who do not. Having explicit objectives that are challenging and specific–with clear timeline and performance criteria–leads to better performance. Setting a goal is about making a commitment in words, and words have the power to create a better future.
Goals communicate, to ourselves and to others, the belief that we are capable of overcoming obstacles.
William H. Murray, a Scottish mountaineer, wrote in the Scotish Himalayan Expedition about the benefits of throwing one’s knapsack over a brick wall:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforessen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’