Oliver Burkeman - The Antidote

The International Day of Happiness today. Maybe the best way to celebrate is to embrace failure. That’s the bottom line to happiness guru Oliver Burkeman in his book “Happiness for People Who Can’t Standing Positive Thinking” who busts the myths of all the other happiness gurus. Five of his Happiness MYTHS are…

  1. It’s crucial to maintain a positive mindset
  2. Ambitious goals, relentlessly pursued, are the key to success
  3. The best managers are those who make work fun
  4. Higher self-esteem equals greater happiness
  5. Avoid pessimists at all costs

Burkeman advocates a following a negative path to a positive outlook…

  • “It is our constant quest to eliminate or to ignore the negative – insecurity, uncertainty, failure, sadness – that causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy in the first place.  Yet this conclusion does not have to be depressing. Instead, it points to an alternative approach: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.”

And part of that “negative path” to happiness is a form of pessimism…

  • “It’s what the psychologist Julie Norem calls ‘defensive pessimism,’ though its origins stretch back to the Stoics of ancient Greece. Thinking carefully about how badly things could go, the Stoics Seneca and Epictetus both recognized, saps the future of its anxiety-producing power; once you’ve figured out how you’d cope if things went wrong, the resulting peace of mind leaves you better primed for success. A similar focus on downsides informs the Principle of Affordable Loss, part of the business philosophy known as ‘effectuation.’ Instead of asking how likely some venture is to succeed, ask whether you could tolerate the consequences if it failed. That way, you’ll take the interestingly risky steps while avoiding the stupidly risky ones.”

Sort of asking yourself “how bad could it be?”

Advertisements