We’re all going to die so you might as well be happy about being alive right now

The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman
What does it mean to be happy? Do you have to be happy all the time? Perky? What if you’re happy but everyone around you isn’t? What if you were just aware of what’s going on around you and generally satisfied with things?

The Antidote argues that happiness is the wrong goal. That by always striving towards something – perfect happiness – you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll never get there, not really. What happens when you get sick? When something doesn’t go right? You won’t be happy.

Instead, we should all strive for what I will call awareness. Awareness of our place in the world, of the network of people we surround ourselves with. Awareness of who we are and the situations we’re in. Our whole lives too, not just one part (work, marriage, whatever). Awareness and acceptance that we’re going to age and die.

I agree with this all up to a point. I mean, awareness is, I think, a better and more realistic goal than happiness. But as a person with some ambition who would like to make some things happen in life… it’s hard to fit that in sometimes with the awareness/zen buddhist way of thinking about things. Maybe it’s figuring out how to make things happen while not making yourself unhappy – keeping that awareness and understanding who you are and why you want things. Hm.

Anyway, The Antidote is a useful book to read as a counterargument to the idea that you should always be positive and upbeat.