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(Sam Harris) The Happiness Experiment - Printable Version

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(Sam Harris) The Happiness Experiment - Desu - 06-05-2013 01:50 PM



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(Sam Harris) The Happiness Experiment - xcriteria - 06-05-2013 03:07 PM

Interesting. I see a few sides to this. One is, I think there's good evidence for the value of contemplative practices. Whether it's meditation, some kind of creative process, or something along those lines, it pays to develop a life of the mind that's not strictly bound to the external rat race.

Another side of this has to do with beliefs, worldview, and basically the story (or stories) people interpret life through. despair.com's EL Kersten discusses this in his talk, Demotivational Wisdom:



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Kersten tells the story of how Despair, Inc. came about. He goes on to talk about how people see their lives through the lens of "narrative identity," or their identity in terms of a particular kind of story. I think there's a lot to be learned by thinking about the implications of that, including when it comes to thinking about happiness.

Another take on using story to think about life is Donald Miller's Storyline. This process basically has people zoom out and think of their life as an overall story using principles of story, inspired by those outlined by screenwriting guru Robert McKee. This framework is specifically meant to address the problem of life-boredom and meaninglessness that Sam Harris talked about in the above video. Here's a teaser for Storyline:



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However, I see another level of all of this. There's the question of one's own story, but there's also the question of the story one's living in, during their time in history. In the modern world, as that "Home" video hit on, things are a lot more dynamic than at many points in history. There are risks and possibilities that are different than the historical threats of an invading army.

A fourth point, that Harris didn't hit on, is the question of choice and opportunity overwhelm. With enough digging, it's easy to encounter the experience of feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities there are in terms of what to do. Once a person experiences that, things look a bit different, and choice becomes a part of the story in a new way.

This talk from Sheena lyengar puts that in great perspective:



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Here's a brief, 3-paragraph excerpt that highlights this concept of choice:
Hidden stuff:

Any one of you could tell the story of your life in terms of fate, chance, or choice. It's worth doing the mental exercise, sometimes. What are the circumstances of your birth that affected where you are today. What were those random events that happened to happen one day, that affected who you are and where you got to. What were the choices that you made?

No matter how you tell the story of your life, you will discover some interesting truths about yourself. But I think there's something very special when you tell the story of your life in terms of choice. Choice, in the end, is the only one of these forces that puts control in your hands. It's the only thing that enables you to go from who you are today, to whom you want to be tomorrow. And so, it is the most powerful tool we have for shaping ourselves, our lives, our futures.

And ultimately, regardless of what fate or chance might have in store fore us, we are evaluated by the choices we make. Okay -- but for God's sake, how do I make choices?


So, what does all of that mean for how to live life, and how to achieve happiness that's more than just fleeting? I think part of the answer has to do with continuity -- looking at one's life as a whole. And part has to do with recognizing all there is to life even in the moment.

What do you think?