Turns out there is a recipe for happiness after all

It just isn’t what you may think, or think you want.

ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:

“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”

WOW! That is the only appropriate response, right? In 50 years of unequalled power and wealth and good health, he achieved two weeks of happiness.

When you really think about, you will realise that our evolutionary drivers (and maybe even our sinful nature) means we are hardwired to seek four things. The first three of these are:

  • Fame
  • Wealth
  • Sexual variety

These things make us more likely to pass on our DNA. Had our cave-man ancestors not acquired some version of these things (a fine reputation for being a great rock sharpener; multiple animal skins), they might not have found enough mating partners to create your lineage.

But, cruelly, these things help us procreate more effectively to increase the likelihood of survival, but do not necessarily produce happiness. The article I found on this topic simply suggests that Mother Nature is cruel because she does not care/ require us to be happy.

I actually think that is the fourth element of this evolutionary quartet. IF fame, wealth and sexual variety made us content and happy, it would actually be counter-productive as it would incentivise us to rest on our laurels at some point.

By causing perpetual UN-happiness instead, it ensures we continue to pursue more and more of those things that ensure our survival, and entrenches our unhappiness.

I have redacted this wisdom from an article I found online. Read the whole article here – it is probably the best 10 minutes you will spend this year – if you actually turn the advice into action.

The recipe for success I promised in the title is this: LOVE PEOPLE. USE THINGS. (And not: LOVE THINGS. USE PEOPLE.)

(This post was the introduction to our Fortnightly #thinkdifferent newsletter. You can have a look at our archives – and subscribe - HERE to get more of it if you like.)