Think of this book as a Philosopher’s notes on that awesome class. From “Spiritual Farts” and “110-Year Old You”s to “The Tolle Trap” and “Blissipline,” you’ll have fun getting your wisdom on in this inspiring, playful, wise and practical little book as Brian Johnson shares one hundred of his favorite Big Ideas on how to create a life brimming with a radiant enthusiasm only discovered when we align with the fundamentals of Optimal Living.
HAPPINESS = VIRTUES IN ACTION
Quick fact: In the 20th century, for every one hundred articles psychologists published on *negative* aspects of human behavior (stuff like depression, schizophrenia, etc.) there was only one article published on the positive stuff. Basically, we figured out how to take someone from -10 to -5 to 0 through therapy and psycho-pharmacology, but we were pretty much in the dark on how to (scientifically) help someone go from 0 to + 5 to + 10 and beyond.
To address this issue, in the year 2000, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created a new movement called “Positive Psychology” that promised to identify the scientific underpinnings of how we can live with more happiness, meaning and all that good stuff. Guess where they started. They went Old School—sifting through all the classic wisdom texts where they saw the same ideas repeated again and again. Although they differ on the details, these classics (from the Bible to the The Bhagavad Gita to the Bushido samurai code) say the same thing: Live with virtue. In fact, the researchers identified a constellation of six core virtues: wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance and spirituality. They set out to *scientifically* establish that, when we put these virtues in action, we’ll live with more happiness, meaning and mojo.
The equation is simple: Happiness = Virtues in Action (VIA).
P.S. While we’re on the subject of virtues in action, check out AuthenticHappiness.com and join a million other peeps who have taken their “VIA Character Strengths” test. It’s an awesome way to identify your *scientifically* valid top virtues in action (aka strengths) so you can start engaging them more often in your day-to-day life.
As Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness and the Godfather of the Positive Psychology movement tells us, one of the keys to happiness is simple: Use your strengths often. Do so in service to something bigger than yourself and you’ll be blessed with abundant happiness and a life filled with meaning and all that goodness to boot. Good times!
THE PRACTICE OF HAPPINESS
Thomas Jefferson declared that we all have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. But, did you know that in Jefferson’s day, the “pursuit of ” something didn’t mean you chased after it, it meant you PRACTICED it. Like the pursuit of medicine. Or the pursuit of law. Or… the pursuit of happiness. Happiness isn’t some elusive treasure we chase after. It’s a state of being we need to PRACTICE.
Researchers tell us that, at most, 10% of our happiness comes from stuff like fast cars, big houses, initials after our names or fancy titles on our business cards. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise and most of us spend our lives chasing one thing after another—the bigger bank balance, the shinier bling, the higher altitude on the org chart—in our attempts to *finally* live with more happiness, peace, fulfillment and all that jazz. Psychologists call that being stuck on a “hedonic treadmill.”
Gasping and working but Never. Quite. Getting. There. There’s a much more direct way to sustainable happiness that comes from effectively shaping our thoughts and behaviors, living with virtue and being in integrity with our highest values. Ultimately, we need to realize that the pursuit of all that fame/ fortune/ power is a lot like running in place.
So, let’s step off the Bling Treadmill and diligently, patiently, persistently and playfully start focusing on what really matters—mastery of our thoughts and behaviors. (Interestingly, the more we do this, the more the “material stuff ” tends to show up—but more as byproducts of our goodness than anything else!)
THE 10 PRINCIPLES OF OPTIMAL LIVING
From what I can see, the essence of Optimal Living comes down to these 10 Principles:
1. Optimism. If we can’t tame that crazy, drunk monkey in our mind and shape the contents of our consciousness, nothing else matters. Period.
2. Purpose. What inspires you? What’s your dharma? Your purpose? Your highest calling? Living an authentically awesome life requires creating an empowering vision and keeping your eye on your Highest Goal without losing yourself on a manic Holy Grail chase.
3. Self-Awareness. From the Oracle of Delphi and the Buddha to modern science, it’s clear: We’ve gotta know ourselves. How well do you know thyself?
4. Goals. Whether it’s meditating first thing tomorrow morning or starting your business (or family or painting or…), we’ve gotta have goals that inspire us.
5. Action. All that’s nice, but we’ve gotta follow Guru Nike’s advice and *Just Do It!* Are you just doing it or just talking about.
6. Energy. We’re gonna have a hard time reaching our potential if we have a hard time getting out of bed or getting out of debt. Are you honoring the simple fundamentals of nutrition/ exercise/ rejuvenation/ money?
7. Wisdom. Wisdom is all about approaching life as our classroom and looking at every moment as another opportunity to live our ideals.
8. Courage. The word comes from the Latin word for “heart.” It’s the virtue that pumps blood to all the other virtues. Without it, none of this other stuff matters. How’s your courage pumping?
9. Love. Love, love, love. How’re your relationships? Are you studying love like you’d study a sport or a musical instrument or a language you want to master?
10. en* theos. God/ Spirit/ The Universe. Whatever you call the Force that beats our hearts and keeps the planets in line, it’s the center and circumference of everything. Connecting to it is a good idea. You plugged in?