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Dr. Bik Kwoon Tye could be a poster child for Dr. Seligman's work in the field of positive psychology! This story reminds me so much of a book I just finished reading: The Happiness Advantage.

"Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around."




God I tortured myself growing up thinking that once I achieved the next big goal I would “be happy”. I don’t know why it took me 30+ years to realize that state was never achieved, I just have to be happy now without waiting for it to happen to me.


I wonder if it took 30+ years because your young adult brain was geared toward perceiving 'carrots and sticks'.


How would a young adult go about breaking this perception?


I don't know, and I'm not sure it's a good idea. I think it's a feature, not a bug, though it has very clear downsides, which you can take steps to ameliorate. Talking of steps:

Walking and talking are pretty ancient ways of taking stock and finding new perspectives. Talk to people outside your usual age range and social class. Get out into nature. These things usually help in ways I can't explain very well, but I find them vital to sustainably integrating who I am in here with where I am in the world. In my experience, major health crises of the mental kind tend to be down to this.


Does it? A lot of the people I know who've accomplished significant things did so not because they were happy, but because they tried harder than anyone else. They were not satisfied with the way things were and put a lot of effort into changing them. I myself didn't lose half my bodyweight because I was happy, quite the contrary, I hated --and still hate-- my body. That kind of motivation is incredibly helpful for overcoming the suffering required to accomplish big things.

Success will not make you happy, this my experience agrees with, but I'm equally sure that happiness will not make one successful.


I didn't read the book the OP quotes, but it rings true to me on many levels.

While happiness doesn't guarantee success, it sure has hell makes it easier to work hard!

The darkest year of my life was sophomore year in college. I wasn't doing well in my classes, so I dropped some hobbies to make more time to study. I got out of shape, gained weight, lost touch w/ my friends, put more pressure on myself to make all of these sacrifices "worth it," and welp – my grades never improved.

The next year, I fell in love w/ this boy.

After what most people call a downward spiral, I essentially fell straight into an upward spiral! Falling in love was (and still is)... inspiring. I got back into shape, rejoined all of the teams and activities I had quit, and also got straight A's in not four, not five, but all six of my classes (at MIT).

Being happy doesn't magically transport you to the finish line, but it certainly makes running the race more enjoyable. As the quote says, happiness is indeed fuel.

And lastly, I don't know if you're proud of yourself for losing so much weight, but you ought to be! When I get out of shape, my goal usually starts out as "I want to feel good in my body." But every time I start the process (and it happens frequently because I'm a bit of a yo-yo-er), I start to get really geeked by the progress. Progress is one of the only things that reliably and consistently makes me happy. (It's the best!!!)


> Progress is one of the only things that reliably and consistently makes me happy.

My experience is that if you rely on progress for your emotional wellbeing you will not have a good time. Progress too easily slips backwards or plateaus for long periods of time. It sounds like the kind of ting someone would say during the easy beginning stages of of a thing.


They say a journey of 10,000 steps starts with a single step. And then you have a journey of 9,999 steps, which starts with a single step. That is, there's never a time when you take 10,000 steps in one go, or when you do an entire journey in one go, the whole journey ends with a single step as well.

Given that the entire journey is single steps, if you take one step and then beat yourself up because one step is nothing, and tell yourself how much of a loser you are for only moving one step, and how other would people disapprove .. that makes the entire journey thousands of steps where you beat yourself up because each step isn't enough. How are you going to face, and endure, such a miserable journey?

By contrast, if each step is a rewarding piece of progress, which you cheer yourself on for, then (in a recursive sense), the entire journey ahead of you unfolds into thousands of rewarding, cheerful pieces of progress encouraging you forwards.

I myself didn't lose half my bodyweight because I was happy, quite the contrary, I hated --and still hate-- my body.

You've worked hard to go from self-hate to self-hate, through thousands of steps each full of self-hate. What kind of progress is that, really? What kind of life is that? In a fraction of the time and effort you could have gone from self-hate to self-approval, without changing anything except thoughts and without doing anything except thinking.

I'm equally sure that happiness will not make one successful.

If you were happy being fat, what use would you have for "success"? What if you die half way through the journey and never reach the end - is success a goal that only exists at one point in time, and if you don't live long enough, you can't have it? Why not feel happy and successful at every moment of calorie counting, grateful at having the opportunity to buy chicken and salad instead of fried chicken and gravy, happy at the scenery around you when you go out to exercise, instead of filling each moment with self-hate and bitterness and what have you?

If every moment you play a tune, you hate how badly you play, and it drives you to play more precisely, but you hate playing and feel bad afterwards, are you better off or worse off than someone who plays imprecisely, but loves every moment they play and can't wait to play more and feels better afterwards?


> Given that the entire journey is single steps, if you take one step and then beat yourself up because one step is nothing...

When did I ever say to do that? What I'm saying is, if you're so happy, and happiness is so important as people claim, then what motivates you to go through the pain of 10000 steps in the first place?

No, I submit that happiness is at best orthogonal to success.

> You've worked hard to go from self-hate to self-hate

Yes, and now without the comfort of being able to eat a pint of ice cream when I've had a bad day or pick up a pizza on the way home from work, or enjoy a carefree dining experience with friends. Such is life. One must sacrifice to attain goals.

> Why not feel happy and successful at every moment of calorie counting

Good fucking luck with that.

> If every moment you play a tune, you hate how badly you play, and it drives you to play more precisely, but you hate playing and feel bad afterwards, are you better off or worse off than someone who plays imprecisely, but loves every moment they play and can't wait to play more and feels better afterwards?

That depends on if your goal is to play better or be happy. To attain success one must not be satisfied with being not successful or one will have too little motivation to succeed. The fact that people put themselves through miserable, agonizing slogs to succeed at things should tell you something about happiness: it isn't actually what people want, deep down. If it were, I know from first hand experience that opioids are a great way to make yourself feel good pretty much all the time without doing anything.

No, people want to be satisfied, and are sometimes confused into thinking that satisfaction will bring happiness, but it won't. Likewise, if someone wants to accomplish something, happiness and failure will not satisfy.


> Success will not make you happy, this my experience agrees with, but I'm equally sure that happiness will not make one successful.

Well, if you allow me, what does being successful actually mean ? What is the point of your definition of successful if it doesn't make you happy ?


Success is simply accomplishing things you set out to accomplish, I guess.


Keep walking your path my friend.




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