Tag Archives: best quotes about happiness

The Search for Happiness is Within

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“He who has little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove.”

Excerpt from The Rambler, No. 6 (Saturday, April 7, 1750), by Samuel Johnson. The Rambler was a periodic, published every Tuesday and Saturday from 1750 to 1753, that targeted the middle-class that was climbing the social ladder by marrying into aristocratic families. Johnson believed that since these individuals did not possess the education required to integrate into higher social circles, The Rambler would provide reflective, didactic essays written in elevated prose on important topics such as morality, society, religion, literature, and politics. Johnson, a man of great erudition, often drew on the ideas of the giants of the Renaissance humanism, like Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch), Rene Descartes, and Desiderius Erasmus.

In The Rambler, No. 6, Johnson introduces a quotation from his close friend James Elphinston, who was an educator and linguistics expert:

Active in indolence, abroad we roam
In quest of happiness which dwells at home:
With vain pursuits fatigu’d, at length you’ll find,
No place excludes it from an equal mind. 

Johnson comments, “That man should never suffer his happiness to depend upon external circumstances, is one of the chief precepts of the Stoical philosophy; a precept, indeed, which that lofty sect has extended beyond the condition of human life, and in which some of them seem to have comprised an utter exclusion of all corporal pain and pleasure from the regard or attention of a wise man.” In a later passage, he remarks on the plight of the British poet Abraham Cowley (1618-1667):

“If [Cowley] had proceeded in his project [to travel abroad to find an obscure retreat], and fixed his habitation in the most delightful part of the new world, it may be doubted, whether his distance from the vanities of life, would have enabled him to keep away the vexations. It is common for a man, who feels pain, to fancy that he could bear it better in any other part. Cowley having known the troubles and perplexities of a particular condition, readily persuaded himself that nothing worse was to be found, and that every alteration would bring some improvement: he never suspected that the cause of his unhappiness was within, that his own passions were not sufficiently regulated, and that he was harassed by his own impatience, which could never be without something to awaken it, would accompany him over the sea, and find its way to his American elysium. He would, upon the trial, have been soon convinced, that the fountain of content must spring up in the mind: and that he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.”

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Read related posts: Experiencing Happiness in Life
Happiness is a By-Product


How to Be Happy

alex atkins bookshelf cultureHow many times have you heard someone say, “I just want to be happy.” Unfortunately, it is not easy to find happiness when each day you are bombarded with thousands of ads and brand messages to convince you that you are not happy until you purchase, lease, eat, drink, smoke, wear, or use the latest and greatest products. Buy now! Order yours today! See the results tomorrow!

Research by Media Dynamics, Inc. and other recent studies have found that each day a person sees an average of 362 ads per day, consuming up to 6 hours of your day. But even more startling is that each day a person sees from 3,000 to 20,000 brand exposures — labels or logos on just about every product, article of clothing, signage, billboards, magazines junk mail, as well as digital ads on websites, videos, emails, and tweets. Realize, of course, that Google and Facebook are essentially advertising companies — a large portion of their revenue comes from collecting as much data about you and then exposing you to very targeted, personalized ads so that you can buy more stuff… so you can be happy.

This incessant advertising plays a very key role in the economy: companies make a profit and grow by selling you lots of stuff — mostly stuff you want but don’t actually need. However, herein lies the subtle but insidious effect of advertising — it does so at the expense of your mental well-being, your self esteem, your soul. The role of advertising is make you feel bad about yourself, about your life, about the stuff you currently own in order to promote the myth that happiness is a goal, that happiness is just a purchase away. And when you don’t find happiness in that particular product, they are ready to sell you the upgrade, the new and improved version. In effect, advertisers and the companies they work for place you on the treadmill of endless consumption and acquisition. So how can we find happiness?

The antidote to this mindless consumerism is to embrace the age-old wisdom promoted by the ancient Greeks that essentially states that happiness is not found in things, but rather within. And the Greeks were wise enough to know that happiness is not a goal;  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “Happiness is not a goal… it’s a byproduct of a life well lived.” Amen sister.

Ponder this liberating thought for a moment: if everyone were happy, advertising would not flourish because it would be so difficult to promote so many products to people who understood that they didn’t need them. You wouldn’t be bombarded with 362 ads a day, freeing up six hours each day. Achieving happiness begins by dismissing advertising’s constant efforts to belittle who you are and embracing the wisdom of how to be happy promulgated by the notable philosophers. Who knew that being happy was so inexpensive and affordable?

Epictetus: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 

Immanuel Kant: ““We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” 

John Stuart Mill: “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”

Plato: “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”

Socrates: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Socrates: “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”

Socrates: “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”

Lao Tzu: ““Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Read related posts: The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
Doublets: The Value of Wisdom
The Virtue of Wisdom
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of a Grandmother


For further reading: https://sjinsights.net/2014/09/29/new-research-sheds-light-on-daily-ad-exposures/

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