• We know that if we savor every moment—every smile, every meal, every ray of sunshine—we will be happy. Yet we savor maybe 1% of our moments. (View Highlight)
  • We know that if we appreciate what we have, from the roof over our heads to the clothes on our backs, we will be happy. Yet we appreciate maybe 1% of what we have. (View Highlight)
  • Good news makes us happier than bad news. Yet we consume way more bad news than good news, even though we can’t do anything about the bad news, and even though there is plenty of good news available. (View Highlight)
  • Anger feels bad. Yet when we’re angry with our loved ones, we think about all the times they made us angry, which just makes us angrier. Why don’t we think about all the times they made us happy? (View Highlight)
  • We can delude ourselves into believing pretty much anything: the earth is flat, the world is run by a cabal of satanic pedophiles, etc. Yet we never delude ourselves into believing that everything is perfect and wonderful as it is. (View Highlight)
  • If we were actually pursuing happiness, we’d be very good at it by now, given our many years of practice. Yet studies show that we suck at it. We’re incredibly bad at predicting how happy things will make us or how long our happiness will last. (View Highlight)
  • There are vast bodies of scientific research that could help us stop sucking at happiness, like Positive Psychology, the science of happiness. Yet most people aren’t very interested in this research. It’s kind of boring. (View Highlight)
  • Having a child makes us less happy and more stressed, and we know this, yet we do it anyways, often multiple times. (View Highlight)
  • We maintain relationships with assholes, even though it’s clear we’d be happier without those assholes in our lives. (View Highlight)
  • Sorry, that’s bullshit. To “want” something is to learn how to get it and take it when it’s available. But you don’t learn how to get happiness. You repeatedly do things that make you miserable. Happiness is available for the taking—just savor the moment or appreciate what you have—but you never take it. So in what sense do you really “want” happiness? (View Highlight)
  • The truth is, we’re animals—specifically, apes. Our brains are the product of evolution. It would be very strange if evolution made us want happiness as our number one goal. Happiness is inside our heads—it’s not out there in the world. It has no connection to survival or reproduction, which kind of has to exist if we evolved to want it. Eudamonia and self-actualization make even less sense as evolved goals. (View Highlight)
  • We want sex. We want to be sexy. We want tasty yum yums for our face-holes. We want to establish dominance, or we want to display submission. We want to stay warm, avoid snakes, use tools, support our tribes, not be on fire, ascend social hierarchies, form alliances, show off our health and virtue, nurture cute babies (preferably ones that share our DNA), and make people feel indebted to us (so they’ll help us in the future when we’re sick or injured). These are the sorts of things we want—the things that helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. Not happiness (View Highlight)
  • Once we accept this fact, everything starts to make sense. Why do we read so much bad news? Because scary stuff can kill us and happy stuff can’t. Why are we bored by Positive Psychology? No sex or death in it. Why do we work too much? Status anxiety. Why do we simmer in anger and shitpost on Twitter? Dominance. Why do we beat ourselves up and stay friends with assholes? Submission. Why do we have kids, even though they make us miserable? Come on. (View Highlight)

New highlights added March 25, 2024 at 4:31 AM

  • First, we need to make a distinction between happiness (enjoying stuff) and motivation (wanting stuff). These are different things that live in different parts of the brain. You can enjoy something without wanting it, and you can want something without enjoying it. For example, I enjoy meditating, but I never want to do it. Doomscrolling upsets me, but I often want to do it. (View Highlight)
  • The big mistake we make is lumping happiness and motivation together. We assume that happiness is what causes us to be motivated, and that without happiness, we’d just sit around all day doing nothing. This is wrong. Most of what we do doesn’t make us happy, but we do it anyways. We shlep, small-talk, run errands, and go through the motions, without a scintilla of enjoyment required. We don’t need happiness to motivate us, any more than a thermostat needs happiness to perform its function of keeping our homes at the right temperature. (View Highlight)
  • Happiness is when you guess wrong, but in a good way. You thought people would roll their eyes at your dumb joke, but they’re howling with laughter. You though the paella would taste like shit, but it’s a culinary miracle. Happiness rewires your brain so that you tell more jokes, cook more Spanish cuisine, or subscribe to this surprisingly insightful substack. Happiness is like your brain saying, “getting warmer.” (View Highlight)
  • So too with the guessing game of life. If you can guess how everything is going to turn out—jokes, paellas, whatever—you’re doing great. The more often people laugh at your jokes, the better you get at predicting what they will laugh at, and the better you get at telling jokes. But eventually, you stop needing the “getting warmers,” and you stop relishing the sweet sound of laughter. Joke-telling becomes rote and mechanical. You become the comic relief character, and that’s like your job now. (View Highlight)
  • That’s why it seems like you want to be happy. You’re chasing the sort of thing that made you happy in the past, when you first got the “getting warmer” signal, even if it no longer makes you happy now. All of the objects of your desire are associated with happy memories, which creates the illusion that happiness is what all your desires have in common. But it’s not. The more you get what you want, the more predictable it becomes, and the less you enjoy it when you get it. You’re not pursuing happiness so much as chasing it away. (View Highlight)
  • Happiness is an excuse, a placeholder, an illusion, a story we tell ourselves. (View Highlight)