Friday, September 8, 2017

The Route to Happiness


I found Colin Beavan's How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps The World curiously bland, given its potentially life-changing subject matter. Maybe it was the calm, kindly tone, when I expected more of an exhortation or a pep talk. Maybe it was the irrefutable logic and common sense of Beavan's premise, an undeniable truth couched in plain language.

At any rate, the point of this book is an old one -- how to achieve the Good Life -- in the tradition of Socrates, Seneca, Thoreau, and various other thinkers through time. It's the great question of every age. Here, Beavan puts his own spin on it, subjecting such modern components as materialism, student loan debt, health and fitness habits, social consciousness, and work life to an examination of what he calls the "standard approaches" and encouraging a frank evaluation of whether they do, in fact, lead to happiness.

His content is sometimes brilliant, for all its simplicity. It certainly has the potential for being life-changing and I suspect his approach and research will click for many of his readers. As just one example, Beavan encourages his reader to realize that even a small change matters, and one needn't make the perfect small change to make a worthwhile difference for oneself and others and feel happy about doing so.

Beavan cites a woman who decided she wanted to make a better choice about the coffee she purchased. She didn't postpone the decision for weeks or months while she researched her options or became a coffee expert. Instead, at the supermarket she read the labels, noticed the various certifications for fair trade, shade grown, and so on, decided that more certifications was probably a good thing, and purchased the brand with the most certifications. Building on that success, she later became a regular customer of her local independent coffee shop, learned more about coffee from the owner, and switched brands again to make an even more informed choice. But she didn't wait for the perfect choice before taking action, nor did she feel bad about not making a better choice at the outset. She simply got on with it.

Applying this model across the board in all facets of life, Beavan's readers are likely to succeed in achieving an authentically good life, simply by identifying what will bring them true satisfaction and then pursuing it. Their good lives will undoubtedly lead to a better world populated by thoughtful, caring, well-prioritized community members who are disciplined with themselves -- assuring that they live in alignment with their principles -- and encouraging with others. And wouldn't that make us all quite a bit happier?

Excerpt (from a section called Nine Ways to Be "Acceptable" Without Buying Anything):

9. When ads make you feel like you rock and don't need to change a thing:
They are selling: Nothing. Ads will never say this. Their job is to make you feel bad about yourself, not good.

There is only one place where people cook more than you, love better than you, have sexier bodies, and all the rest. That is in the media -- on the Internet, in the movies, and on TV.

Do this instead: Slow down! Evaluate the con. Do the people in the ad really exist? Look at your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues. Do you really in your heart of hearts believe you are less than they are? Aside from the fact that you are stressed and harried and feel a bit insecure -- just like everyone else -- when you refer to your Truth and not to TV or the Internet, wouldn't you say you are doing pretty well without more junk?

Note: This book counts toward the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge

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