our entire past, which we feel (in many ways correctly) is responsible for how we behave today, is itself just a story we are telling ourselves in the here and now. (Location 137)

Note: Our past is a story we tell ourselves

‘The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents,’ wrote the legendary psychoanalyst Carl Jung. (Location 151)

Confirmation bias occurs when we notice things in the world that support our beliefs and pay less attention to things that contradict them. (Location 263)

Tags: bias

Note: .bias confirmation bias is when we notice things in the world which reinforce our beliefs and neglect thos which dont

hedonic treadmill. Ancient philosophers such as the Stoics and Epicureans – and we will look more closely at them later – were very aware of it, though the term was first coined in the 1970s1 and later developed by a psychologist called Michael Eysenck in the nineties. It refers to the cycle of desire-fulfilment (‘hedonism’ means ‘the pursuit of pleasure’): we want something, we perhaps get it, we feel good for a while and then return to whatever default level of happiness or sadness we enjoyed before. Nothing really changes. (Location 767)

Tags: hedonic

Note: .hedonic

Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.’ (Location 870)

Tags: wealth

Note: .wealth wealth is like sea water. The more we drink the thirstier we become

when you travel (or for that matter attend a party), you always take yourself with you. (Location 900)

To take charge of our stories, it is helpful to take on board an interesting perspective only now being fully discussed in the realms of psychology through the work of Daniel Kahneman: that we cannot talk about happiness without distinguishing between two selves that both operate within us: the experiencing self and the remembering self. When we look back over our lives and decide if we have had a happy time in this world, it is the remembering self that is making that judgement. However, it may be that some of those choices we made, which satisfied the future remembering self, were not at the time the most enjoyable experiences and therefore did not provide particular pleasure to the experiencing self. For our purposes, Kahneman’s separation of those two selves seems to correlate with what we might intuitively understand to be the separation of happiness and pleasure: the former comes from a judgement we make, a sense of things being or having been right or as we would like them to be, and tends to be retrospective; whereas the latter relates to what we are being made to directly feel right now. Thus you might choose to spend an afternoon attending to a sick relative rather than go to a theme park with friends, choosing the least ‘pleasurable’ option and leaving your experiencing self less fulfilled. But this choice might furnish your future remembering self with a better story of how you spent your afternoon and even contribute to a wider sense of happiness regarding what you do with your life. (Location 985)

Note: Two selves: experiencing and remembering.

I take the view that it is this remembering self with which we should be more concerned. Kahneman gives examples that support this preference: would you go on a holiday knowing that all memory of it would be wiped from your brain (and camera) the moment it was over? Probably not. Mere pampering to the experiencing self is not enough; we want memories too. (Location 1027)

Tags: remember, favorite

Note: Should we optimise for the remembering self rather than the experiencing self

avoiding the swing from pain to boredom and back that would carry us passively through life like a plastic bag in the wind. (Location 1101)

Tags: metaphor

Note: .metaphor

Our pathologies are not badges of honour but helpful alarm bells: reminders from the psyche that we have reached the edge of the path and need to re-orient to move forward into whatever greatness might be on offer for us. We can pay attention to our anxieties, ask where they come from and of what difficult episodes in the past they remind us, and treat them as deep messages to enable us to reconsider our priorities. (Location 1145)

Milan Kundera made the enduring point in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that there is no dress rehearsal for life. This is life; this is it, right now. It is a powerful and motivating thought. Each moment you live passes and is gone, never to return. Life is too brief to not consider how to experience it at its best. (Location 1209)

Aristotle did to a greater extent, and his ideas are more intuitive to us today. He points to the fact that we judge something to be good if it does well the thing that it is uniquely designed to do. For example, we say a shoemaker is good if he or she makes good shoes. (Location 1369)

Note: Something is good if it does well the thing it is uniquely designed to do

Aristotle’s system is unashamedly a celebration of reason. The application of rational thinking separates us from the animals and allows us to fulfil our unique nature: that thing for which we were designed. Mastery over our ignoble qualities – a major key to a flourishing, happy life – is to be reached through clear-sightedness (as one might need for effective archery), debate and education. (Location 1449)

Note: Aristotles system is a celebration of reason

A prerequisite was a suitably receptive character, which is why his Lyceum was open only to men, and men who had already received an education. Just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things.4 This amounts to an elitist view of happiness; it is certainly not something that is open to everyone. How different this is from our modern sense of universal entitlement. Children, women, the uneducated and slaves were seen as a lost cause. Can that be right? Or should an effective route to happiness be, by its nature, open to all? (Location 1457)

Note: Aristotles teachings were only open to eucated men

Epicurus’s prolific literary output, he did not share Aristotle’s vision of transforming society. Instead, he chose to opt out, and in some ways the Garden became a prototype for the hippie communes of the 1960s and other cooperatives that have existed since all over the world. (Location 1482)

Note: Rather than attempting to transform society epicurus opted out

Two huge shifts occurred with it that have affected views of happiness ever since. Firstly, as McMahon explains in The Pursuit of Happiness, the attainment of perfect happiness ceased to be a concern of the here and now and became something that would happen in the far-off future. In Heaven, or after the parousia (the Second Coming), happiness beckoned to us from just over the distant horizon. No longer was it to be measured in a lifespan; now it was the stuff of eternity. Secondly, and closely connected with this first paradigm shift, we were told we should suffer now to obtain this happiness later. In fact, rather than avoid suffering as the Stoics and Epicureans taught, we were now instructed to embrace it as a sign of holiness. (Location 1529)

Note: Christianity told of eternal happiness in the afterlife, and of suffering in this life

it is absurd to work at something you don’t enjoy, purely to make more money to be able to live longer and continue doing something you don’t like. (Location 1898)

Tags: work

Note: .work

Schopenhauer, refreshingly, ascribed far more importance to what one does with one’s leisure. The ideal he describes (and he goes into some detail about how to sensibly store capital and live off the interest) is to be wealthy enough to have expansive free time and the intellectual capabilities to fill it with contemplation and activity in the service of mankind. (Location 1913)

Note: It is more important what one does with their free time

contentment. If happiness lies in the relationship between what we desire and what we have, we are being encouraged to consider the first part of that equation rather than obsess over the second. (Location 2046)

Tags: desires

Note: .desires

‘Everything we need is easy to procure, while the things we desire but don’t need are more difficult to obtain.’ (Location 2062)

Tags: favorite, happiness

Note: Its easy to get what we need and more difficult to get what we desire

Advertisements generally work on the principle of creating in us a feeling that we lack something and then providing the means to fill it. The writer David Foster Wallace describes their goal as to ‘create an anxiety relievable by purchase’. (Location 2065)

Tags: advertisements

Note: ads create a hole in us that can be filled by purchasing

‘Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.’ (Location 2130)

Tags: desire

Note: dont spoil what you have by desirig what you dont have. You once desired what you now have

Epicurus also encourages us to avoid unhealthy attachment in our relationships. He says: ‘Those who possess the power of securing themselves completely from their neighbours, live most happily with one another, since they have this constant assurance’.3 This is a warning against neediness, which, according to the poet Lucretius (who brought Epicurus to a later Roman audience), is the destroyer of love. Neediness sets up another futile aim: we can never get enough from people towards whom we feel needy. They may provide on one occasion, but when they fall short of our inflated expectations the next time, we worry and quickly revert to our previous insecure state. This kind of unnecessary attachment, ‘unnatural’ according to Epicurus’s distinction, is therefore difficult to satisfy and endless in its desire. (Location 2145)

Tags: neediness

Note: We can never get enough from those whom we are needy of

Our unique quality is our capacity for reason, and if we exercise that well, the Stoics argued, we gain a psychological strength that protects us from disturbance. This continues on from Aristotle’s thoughts about judging a thing by how well it does the thing it is uniquely supposed to do. (Location 2184)

Tags: favorite

Note: Our unique quality is our capacity to reason

If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now. (Location 2220)

Tags: perspective

Note: We are hurt but our judgement of external things, rather than the things themselves

our judgements about people are in truth responsible for how they seemingly ‘make’ us feel. Nobody, and nothing save our own judgements, truly ‘makes’ us feel anything. (Location 2232)

Note: Only our own judgements make us feel anything

‘He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing’ (Location 2291)

Tags: desires

Note: .desires

take responsibility for those judgements we make and to reconsider our judgements in a way that helps us. (Location 2352)

Note: Take responsibility for the judgements we make

‘Say to every harsh appearance – “you are an appearance, and not the only way of seeing the thing that appears,”’ Epictetus tells us. (Location 2398)

We can pay attention to our responses to events and the stories we tell ourselves about them. We can check to see if we are increasing the pain caused by a negative event by exacerbating things and searching for negative patterns, rather than simply accepting first impressions and events as they are. We can take responsibility for how we feel by realising that ultimately it is our after-the-event, ongoing reactions to what happens around us that are the cause of our problems. (Location 2443)

Tags: reaction, favorite

If something is not under our control, we can recognise it as such and decide that it’s fine as it is. (Location 2471)

The key to why this works is that when we let things go that we can’t control, nothing bad happens. The situation can’t get any worse, and generally we get to feel an awful lot better. (Location 2576)

Note: When we let things go that we cant control nothing bad happens

learn to desire what you already have, and you will have all you need. (Location 2674)

Tags: desires

Note: .desires