Arthur Brooks: The Science of Happiness, How to Build the Life You Want | E247
Arthur Brooks: The Science of Happiness, How to Build the Life You Want | E247
Arthur Brooks is a behavioral social scientist with a focus on human happiness. He is the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. He is the author of multiple bestselling books and is the host of the How to Build a Happy Life with Arthur Brooks podcast. Alongside his podcast and his articles in The Atlantic, Arthur was also selected as one of Fortune’s “50 World’s Greatest Leaders.”
In this episode, Hala and Arthur will discuss:
– How he quit his job to study happiness
– The pursuit of “mini-careers”
– How he met and started working with Oprah
– The serious business of building a better life
– Why Americans struggle with happiness
– Focusing on “happierness”
– The three key ingredients to happiness
– The difference between pleasure and enjoyment
– Why you can’t keep no satisfaction
– Why meaning requires pain
– How hard work leads to more satisfaction
– How to control your emotions through metacognition
– Why to avoid mirrors
– Your happiness 401k plan
– Why you need unhappiness
– And other topics…
Arthur Brooks is a behavioral social scientist with a focus on human happiness. He is the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. Before joining the Harvard faculty in 2019, he served as president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the world’s leading think tanks. He is the author of multiple bestselling books, including his latest with Oprah Winfrey, Build the Life You Want. Alongside his podcast and his articles in The Atlantic, Arthur served as the subject of the 2019 documentary film “The Pursuit,” which Variety named one of the “Best Documentaries on Netflix” in August 2019. He was also selected as one of Fortune’s “50 World’s Greatest Leaders.”
Arthur’s Articles in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/author/arthur-c-brooks/
The “How to Build a Happy Life with Arthur Brooks” Podcast: https://arthurbrooks.com/podcast/
Arthur’s Books: https://arthurbrooks.com/books/
Arthur’s Website: https://arthurbrooks.com/
Arthur’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arthur-c-brooks/
Arthur’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/arthurbrooks
Arthur’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/arthurcbrooks/
Arthur’s Instagram: https://www.facebook.com/ArthurBrooks/
Are you a cheerleader, poet, mad scientist, or judge? Take this quiz to learn your PANAS profile: https://arthurbrooks.com/build
Arthur’s new book with Oprah Winfrey Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier: https://www.amazon.com/Build-Life-You-Want-Science/dp/0593545400
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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: Young and profiters, few things make us happier here at Yap than a great discussion on the science of happiness. And I'm so excited to welcome back to the show, one of the world's premier happiness experts. Arthur Brooks is a Harvard professor, PhD social scientist, a number one bestselling author and columnist at the Atlantic, who specializes in combining science and philosophy to give people actionable strategies to live their best lives. Last time Martha and I spoke, we talked about his previous book, From Strength to Strength, and how to find more satisfaction in the second half of your life. That was by far one of my favorite episodes from last year. And that's episode number 192 if you want to check that out. Today, we have Arthur back on to dig even deeper into the science of happiness, especially since he now has a book coming out with a very special co author, Oprah Winfrey. It's called Build the Life You Want
Hey, Arthur, welcome to Young and Profiting Podcast.
[00:02:31] Arthur Brooks: Thank you, Holla. It's great to be back with you again.
[00:02:34] Hala Taha: Yeah, I'm super excited for this conversation. You are one of my favorite episodes and conversations from last year, and I brought up your name in so many different episodes. Talking about fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.
That was one of my favorite learnings of last year. So I'm incredibly happy to have you back So when I was doing research I found out that you're not naturally a happy person. You actually say that naturally you're anxious and gloomy.
And so you actually started looking into happiness to sort of solve your own problem. So can you talk to us about how you first got interested in the work of happiness?
[00:03:12] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Thanks a lot. I appreciate that. You know, I'm a college professor. I'm a social scientist. I study human behavior.
My PhD is in behavioral economics and I always applied it toward public policies and you know how to design systems that had good incentives and all that kind of stuff. But somewhere along the way over the past 30 years, I realized that I'm kind of missing the boat. I read all this work on human happiness, but why don't I actually put a strategy together using my expertise so I can actually become a happier person.
You know, the truth is that I always kind of thought of happiness as something you observe, like astronomy. You study the stars, but you can't affect the stars. But happiness really isn't like that. The truth of the matter is there's a ton of neuroscience, and social science, and a lot of evidence out there that shows that if you have some knowledge, and if you change your habits, you can actually get happier as a person.
So I thought, huh, you know, and that was really, I mean, it shouldn't have taken me this long. What I did was, I was, some years ago, I was a CEO of a non profit organization in Washington, D. C. And I wasn't very happy, and I thought, You know what, I'm gonna throw all my intellect at this thing. I'm gonna see if I can actually become a happier person.
So I, I left my job. I quit my job. I moved back to the university. I took a job, I teach happiness at Harvard University. And I apply all these things to my life, and I write about it every single week in The Atlantic. That says, here's how you can use science to become a happier person. And you know what?
I'm 60 percent happier than I was five years ago. It actually works. Wow. I
[00:04:41] Hala Taha: love that. And so like you mentioned, you changed your career at 55 years old to focus on this work of happiness and to learn more about it and teach other people how to be happy. Talk to us about some of the work that you've done and the research that you've done in this area so
[00:04:55] Arthur Brooks: far.
Yeah. So early on my career, I mean, I've done a lot of different things. And one of the things that, you know, this is a much younger audience, a lot of people who are real strivers starting out in their careers and they want to be really successful. One of the things that a lot of young people find, and I teach this in my happiness class at the Harvard Business School.
Is a lot of people think that their career is just going to be the straight line going up. But a lot of people are actually more spiral pattern people, which is to say that they like, they're going to be happiest if they have a set of mini careers. That's certainly the case with me. A lot of people figure that out too late.
So I've had four different 10 year careers is really what it comes down to. I was a musician for a decade, a professional classical musician, most of it in Barcelona and the symphony in Barcelona. And then I went away and got my education, got my PhD, and I was a college professor for 10 years. And then I left all that behind.
I was a CEO for 10 years. And so now I get this 10 years where I can actually write, speak, and teach, do research on the science of happiness. This is a 10 year block. Who knows? Maybe longer than that. So what I do in this is I teach a class. I teach classes on happiness at Harvard. I write an article every week.
I wrote a column on the science of happiness at the Atlantic for about 500, 000 people. I do about 175 speeches a year, all over the country speaking about the science of happiness. And then I write a book every two years on some big new topic and happiness. Last time you and I talked, I'd written about how to get happier as you get older.
And now I've got this book coming out about. How you can actually build a happy life on fundamental pillars of what the science says are the pillars of true happiness. So that's kind of how I structure my work. And the best part, Hala, is that the mission is I want to lift people up and bring them together using public education about love and happiness.
And that makes me plenty happy.
[00:06:40] Hala Taha: I love that. And I love this concept of, I think you call it a spiral career that you just mentioned It's, there's a method to the madness. You're not just like picking a random career. And can you talk to us about how you're actually leveraging skills from your past experiences for this new endeavor that you, it's not like you're just totally starting from scratch,
[00:06:57] Arthur Brooks: right?
Yeah, for sure. The best way to think about this, and this is what I teach my students, is that there are four kinds of career patterns. The linear career patterns, you get out of school, you get a job, you only quit that job when you get a better job. And that better job uses all the skills that you have and you go up in sort of a stair step fashion for the rest of your career.
That's what strivers do. However, the other three career patterns, one is called the expert career pattern, where you're not going up like a rocket. You're going up little by little by little. Why? Because you want a job that can support your hobbies and your relationships. And you want a lot of security.
That was my dad. You know, my dad was a college professor. He was at the same college for 40 years and just little by little by little, he maybe got a one or 2 percent salary increase every year, but he was super secure and he knew what was going to happen. That's the second pattern. The third pattern is called the transitory.
And that's what everybody's parents, all of our viewers and listeners are worried. Their parents are worried because when they change jobs, it's kind of lifestyle jobs, like I'm going to work as a waiter in Tucson and then a mover in North Carolina. And then I think I'm going to, who knows, you know, then I'm going to go work for the forest service for a little while.
And it's just, just cause I want to see different things or maybe I met a girl or, you know, whatever, that's going to make me move someplace. Those are lifestyle jobs. That's not people watching young and profiting the real big bulk of the audience that people don't really know about, they think they're linear, but they're not happy on this kind of drive upwards, the spiral career.
Where all of your skills actually build into the next flight of fancy, your next career, we're going to do something big. Now this might mean that sometimes you take less money. It might mean that for 10 years, you step back and you work part time while you raise your kids, and then you go back into a new career when you come out of it, but you build the career and here's the spiral lifestyle.
Your life is your startup. Your company's not a startup. Your life is a startup. And if you have a company, it's an extension of the enterprise of you. And you got to think about your life creatively and dynamically and build it the way that you want to build it. That's the spiral life. I love
[00:09:00] Hala Taha: that. I think I fit into that category.
And I know that work has a lot to do with happiness. We'll talk about. that in a bit, but first, let's learn about why you wrote this new book, And that's co authored by Oprah Winfrey, and I'm a huge, huge fan of her. So how did you meet Oprah, how did she find out about your work, and how did you end up writing this book together?
[00:09:19] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, so Oprah Winfrey and I wrote, have been working together for more than a year at this point. And the reason is because she reads my column in the Atlantic, and she, you know, there's half a million people reading it, so you don't never know, you know, who's reading your column. During the coronavirus lockdown, she was locked out like everybody else, and she was really, got really interested in the science of happiness, and started reading my column pretty carefully every single week.
Then the last book came out, which you and I talked about about a year ago, from Strength to Strength, about building a life where you get happier and happier and happier as you get older. She read that in the first couple of days it was published. And she called and she said, uh, I have a, I mean, she didn't her podcast team call.
Anyway, it's not like she called him and said, this is Oprah Winfrey. And I'm like, yeah, and I'm Batman. It's not like that. So she called and asked me to come on her podcast, Super Soul, which talks about books. She's a huge reader. And I went on her podcast. We talked about the book and then I went on a web show that she's got through Oprah daily.
We were like a house on fire. I mean, we, we see the world in the same way. I mean, our careers are here to lift people up and bring them together. And. Neither one of us is a kid, and we actually know what we want to do with our lives, and we're doing it just from different ways. Her in mass media, and me in this more academic world of science and ideas, and, you know, we kinda, you know, we got together socially a couple of times, and, and finally, she came up with the idea, why don't we get this material, what you teach in your class at Harvard, in front of millions of people?
You know, millions of people who can realize that they can build a life they want. With knowledge and changes in their habits. And so we wrote it over the past nine months or so. What a thrill, you know, passing chapters back and forth. She came up with a title, you know, we made a bunch of changes along the way and we read it in the studio.
So anybody who wants to get this thing on audio, Oprah and I will read you to sleep with it.
[00:11:08] Hala Taha: Oh my God, I love it. I didn't realize that Oprah is part of the audio book. That's
[00:11:11] Arthur Brooks: awesome. Oh yeah. Yeah. We both, we read our parts of the book for sure. And we go back and forth on it. She introduces things and we intersperse our, you know, it's really super fun.
[00:11:21] Hala Taha: And who's the book written for? Who's the target audience?
[00:11:24] Arthur Brooks: The target audience is anybody who actually is willing to build a life that they want. A lot of people. They say they want to get happier, but they don't act that way. Anybody who wants to be in the serious business of building a better life.
It's all of these people, all these spirals and all these other people who realize that the enterprise is themselves and the currency is not money in the enterprise of you. It's love and happiness. That's the currency of your startup. And if you want to get richer, that means you need to get happier and have more love and that's who this book is written for.
This is not a, you know, a PhD dissertation. There's a, there's literally a thousand links in the end notes, so it doesn't bother anybody, to all of these super long haired neuroscience journals. And all that stuff that I do, it's not going to bother the reader at all. This is completely accessible. We have lots of people read it and say, yeah, I get it.
Yeah, I get it. Right. But it's only for people who want to learn about the serious business of themselves and take themselves on as a project. And the guarantee is, if you do this stuff, the science doesn't lie and my life doesn't lie. And Oprah's done it too. And this stuff really, really works.
[00:12:29] Hala Taha: I love it.
Can you talk to us about the struggle that Americans have with happiness? Like, why is this a problem?
[00:12:35] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, it's a problem to begin with. You know, we see bad trends and happiness in the United States than in many developed countries around the world. Most rich countries are getting unhappier. It's been a slight downward ticking trend since the late 1980s, early 1990s.
And then it just tanked around 2008. And that was not really because of the financial crisis. It was because too many people were on social media and social media is just doesn't give you happiness. It makes you lonely. It sets you up for social comparison with other people. You get a real deficit of a hormone, a neuro peptide that functions as a hormone called oxytocin, which is a hormone of bonding.
You get a huge deficit of it. And so you tend to binge the social media because you want more, but you're not getting enough. And so it's kind of like filling up on burgers and fries. You can actually become overweight and malnourished simultaneously. That's what happens with social media. It's the, it's the junk food of social life.
And so that really drove it down, especially among young women, actually, that was the worst. And then of course, Corona coronavirus came and coronavirus just tanked happiness even further and happiness hasn't come back. So the real problem is that we have a happiness crisis. The second thing. is that most people don't understand even what happiness is.
You know, they think it's a feeling, which it's not. Feelings are evidence of happiness. They're not happiness. That's like, the smell of the turkey is evidence of Thanksgiving dinner, but they're not the same thing. That's feelings and happiness. And so they need to understand it. And last but not least, too many people think that happiness is their destination and it's not.
It's getting happier. As Oprah says, the goal is happierness. You got to make progress all along the way, and that's really what the goals have to be. So let's
[00:14:18] Hala Taha: dig deeper on this happiness is not a feeling. I know we talked about it last episode, but in case people didn't listen to it, why is happiness not a feeling?
[00:14:27] Arthur Brooks: Well, happiness is not a feeling because that would kind of leave it up to absolute chance. And it does have this vaporous quality to it. You know, happiness is the feeling I get when I'm doing the things that I enjoy or when I'm with the people that I love. And all those things are true, but that's not the happiness.
That's actually evidence that you're experiencing happiness. And happiness is something you can actually define. Happiness is a combination of three distinct phenomena. And we know this because in the scientific research, We've been able to measure self evaluations of people's happiness that are living in different ways and they have different levels of these phenomena.
Think of happiness as having three macro nutrients. So a lot of people who watch this podcast, They know that if you want to get healthy, you have to get an abundance and balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. That's what they know. Those are the macronutrients of all food. The macronutrients of happiness are enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning.
And that's what we have to maximize. And it turns out that all three of those things are super important and none of them are straightforward. We make tons of mistakes. Any one of those three I can tell you about the mistakes that people make. And so that's what we talk about in the book is how not to make those mistakes so that we can focus on enjoying life more, getting more satisfaction and getting a life full of meaning.
And when we do that through emotional self regulation and walk away from trying to get the feeling of happiness all the time, then we're not so distracted. And then we can focus on the building blocks of a happy life, which we also talking off a lot about.
[00:15:55] Hala Taha: So let's dig into macronutrients since you already brought it up.
Let's start with enjoyment. You make it clear in your book that that's not pleasure. So what's the difference between enjoyment and pleasure and why do we have to make that distinction?
[00:16:07] Arthur Brooks: Great question. So pleasure is what we call a limbic phenomena. Now the limbic system. Is a part of the brain that was evolved before the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is the bumper of brain tissue right behind your forehead. It's the most evolved conscious human executive part of your brain. It's your CEO inside your head. So that's when Hollis says, this is the way I'm going to get to work today because I see this traffic. This is the guest I'm going to have on my show.
Those are all prefrontal cortex kind of decisions. Now, what motivates it? What motivates you to want to make decisions? And the answer is inputs, information. Largely, emotional information that's coming to you, and that comes from your limbic system. Your limbic system is all about giving you emotions.
Anger, fear, sadness, disgust, joy, a sense of affection, surprise, interest. Interest is a primary emotion, and all of that's evolved so that you'll survive and pass on your genes. It's all evolved. So here's the thing, the big mistake that a lot of people make. I don't want to have bad feelings. Oh, yeah? Well, you're gonna die.
You're gonna die. Unless you don't have bad feelings. Why? Because they keep you alive every single day. You need fear. You need grief. You need sadness. You need anger. You need all these things. Now, they can be maladapted. You don't need fear when you open up Twitter. That's stupid. I get that. But the whole point is when a car is barreling toward you and you're in a crosswalk, you better feel fear through the amygdala of your brain, which is part of your limbic system, and jump out of the way.
So, back to the conversation at hand. Pleasure comes from your limbic system because it sends a signal saying, that's a good thing to give you calories, to give you sexual partners, to give you all that kind of stuff. It gives you inputs on how to survive and pass on your genes. That's not the secret to happiness, because that's the secret to addiction.
That's the secret to hitting the lever of pleasure again and again and again. To get enjoyment, which is the true source of happiness, you need the source of pleasure plus people plus memory. Why? Because you need relationships and memory. You need to have the experience of that pleasure in the prefrontal cortex of your brain, in the executive center of your brain.
Here's the way to think about it without all the neuroscience. If there's something that gives you pleasure, don't do it alone. If you're doing it alone again and again and again, you're going to do it compulsively and it will lead to addiction. And that nobody has ever said, you know, the secret of my happiness, methamphetamine.
Nobody's ever said that. Right? Nobody's ever said that. And so anything that you do behaviorally or chemically, the rule of thumb is add people and memories. You know, so you don't have to get rid of anything, but add people and add good memories that you're making, and then you'll get into a healthy lifestyle that give you enjoyment and that leads to happiness.
[00:18:47] Hala Taha: So a good example is like, don't eat ice cream alone. If it gives you pleasure, go and like have an ice cream date with a friend instead.
[00:18:55] Arthur Brooks: Exactly right. Exactly right. If you eat ice cream alone, you'll eat three times as much, right? Because you want the pleasure, the pleasure, the pleasure hitting the lever.
There's a neuromodulator in the brain called dopamine that we've all heard about. That's this anticipation of reward. And when you're by yourself looking for pleasure, you'll hit that lever again and again and again. And again, when you're with people, you don't, you actually don't do that. Now, by the way, there are exceptions to this.
Never drink alone, of course, but also make sure all your friends are not drunks because you know, that's kind of the special case of we're doing it together might actually make it worse. By the way, if you do that, you probably won't have memories. So that, that may, maybe that
[00:19:35] Hala Taha: is consistent. Awesome. Well, the next one is satisfaction.
So. What needs to happen for people to actually feel satisfied and what are the common reasons for people to feel unsatisfied with their life?
[00:19:46] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, so satisfaction is the joy you get after struggle. Now, Young and Profiting, you know what this is all about because you can defer gratification. If you want to be a successful person, you know how to defer gratification.
I bet you everybody of the hundreds of thousands of people who are regular listeners to this podcast, they defer gratification. They've been doing it since they were kids. That's why they're listening to this particular podcast. I don't have to tell you to do that. The problem is, and you'll get the joy, the problem is it doesn't last.
That's the problem with satisfaction. So Mick Jagger, I was saying, I can't get no satisfaction. He's actually still singing that and he's like a hundred. That song has been popular literally since I was one and I'm 59 years old. That's an old song. That's a popular song because it speaks this truth. But the real truth is you, not that you can't get no satisfaction.
The real truth is you can't keep no satisfaction. The problem is you get it and it goes. You know, I get the promotion and then I'm like struggling again. I get the raise and the day I enjoy it is the day I find out about it, not even the day it shows up in my check. I think that if I get that relationship, it's going to give me satisfaction forever, and I'm actually kind of bored two weeks in.
What's wrong with me? And the answer is nothing. Your brain is not evolved to let you enjoy things forever, because if you did enjoy things forever, You wouldn't actually stay on the wheel. You wouldn't keep running. You'd end up, you know, admiring something wonderful and beautiful in your life. While a tiger sneaks up behind you and makes you lunch, you've got to be ready for the next set of circumstances.
So nature makes you think you're going to enjoy things forever, but you don't, and you never figure it out. So here's the workaround. Here's that glitch in the matrix that we can exploit. Real satisfaction is not about having more. That's the formula most people have. More, more, more. How do I get satisfied?
More! Simple, right? No, no, no. Satisfaction is all the things that you have divided by the things that you want. Okay, now think about that. Everybody remembers their high school fractions. You got a numerator, you got a denominator. If you want the number to go up, the inefficient way to do it is to increase the numerator.
The really efficient way to increase the number is to decrease the denominator. You don't need to manage more, more, more, more, more. That'll take care of itself, young and profiting strivers. You need to want less, less, less, less, less. You need to want less strategy and life. Ready for that? That's not a bucket list.
That's a reverse bucket list that we're talking about. And if you even think about that, your life is going to start to change and you're going to start to get happier. That's satisfaction.
[00:22:30] Hala Taha: the third macro nutrient is purpose. And you say this is the most important one. You say that we can make do without enjoyment and even without satisfaction, but without purpose, we're utterly lost.
Why is that?
[00:22:42] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, people are made for meaning. This is sort of the divine element in human life, is that we have to have a sense of why we're here, of, you know, why things happen in our lives, the direction that our life is going so that we can make progress, otherwise we'll just kind of go in circles, and last but not least, we need this feeling like it would matter if we weren't here, that sense of significance.
Now, a couple of things about meaning. Meaning, to find a sense of meaning in life. Requires a lot of pain. And this is the biggest mistake that a lot of young people make. If you went back to 1969 to Woodstock, I wasn't there. I was a little kid and you know, I was like four and my parents wouldn't look, wouldn't let me go.
Cause they were squares. Right. But the hippies used to say, if it feels good, do it. That's awful life advice. That's like life ruining life advice because you're hitting the pleasure lever over and over and over and over again. And a lot of hippies wind up ruining their lives. But we've got an equally anti hippie message today that's equally dangerous, which is if it feels bad, make it stop.
If I'm suffering, there's something wrong with me and I got to go get treated immediately. Now, I got it. There are certain things with anxiety and depression that people have to take care of. But the truth is, suffering is really normal. And if you're trying to do hard things, and you're trying to live your life like an enterprise, you're gonna suffer a lot.
And you gotta suck it up. Because that's the only way that you're gonna find meaning. It's the only way you're gonna get strong and resilient, is by going, Bring it on. That's super important. The second thing that's worth keeping in mind is that people don't know the questions to answer to find their sense of meaning.
And so they're just kind of hoping that meaning will find them, and it's not true. So I actually have a little test to see if somebody has a sense of meaning in their life, and I have a project for everybody watching us if they want their life to have more meaning. Okay, you ready? Yeah. Okay. Because my student, my average student is 28 years old, and I bet you the average age person who's watching and listening to us right now is 28.
So this is like, you're perfect. Okay, you need answers to two questions. Here's the quiz. If you don't have answers that you really believe to these two questions, there's a meaning problem. But that's actually an opportunity for you to go on a quest, a vision quest, to find your answers to these two questions.
So I'll go slow because I know people are getting out pencils on this. The two question test. There's no right answers, but you have to have answers question number one. Why are you alive? You gotta have an answer and a lot of people are like, I don't know sperm in an egg I don't know, you know stork beats me.
Why am I alive? And there's two ways to answer that either Why were you created what cosmic entity created you or what are you on earth to do? There's two ways to answer that question, but you got to have one answer the other here's the second question now it gets heavy For what would you be willing to die today?
This is a showstopper for a lot of people, because a lot of people's like, Nothing, really. It's like, I wish there was something, but I don't know. I mean, and you can make stuff up so you look good and noble, but, you know, this is an internal question. It's really a question that's written on somebody's heart.
So then, if you don't have answers, real answers, there's an issue, but it's a huge opportunity. These are the questions to find your answers to. You gotta go looking. You got to discern this. And, you know, I've seen this with my kids. I mean, you know, my kids are in their twenties, my middle son, his name is Carlos, he's a good dude, he's all about it, but you know, in high school, he was like a lot of, you know, teenagers.
He was kind of. Looking for himself and he wasn't even having fun, which is the problem, right? And the reason is because he didn't have this sense of meaning in his life. So when he's graduating from high school, I did what I do with all of my kids, which is your life is an enterprise. You're the startup entrepreneur.
I'm VC, right? And since I'm VC, I get a business plan. If I'm going to invest, I get a business plan. So go write your business plan. It's super fun being my kid, right? Holla. I bet your West is like too bad. Brooks is not my dad. Yeah, right. No. And I made them when they were juniors in high school, right?
Their business plan. And that was going to be really what they thought the next 10 years of their life was going to look like no actual business sticks to its business plan, but you have to have a business plan. So you have intention is the whole point. And if it was not original enough, I sent it back for revision.
So Carlos's business plan goes back for like six rounds of revisions because it, you know, he was just like, I don't know, I guess I'll go to college. And I'm like, no, you're not. No, you're not. You hate school. I mean, you go to college. I didn't go to college till I was 30. So I know that it's fine, but I need something original.
He's like, you know, I want to find the answers to those questions. And I think I'm going to find those alone outside working with my hands. I said, okay, I'm listening. And so I knew his business plan when he was going to be a farmer. Now there's no farmers in my family for like 125 years. We're college professors.
We're musicians. You know, it's like farming. So he gets a job as a dry land wheat farmer in Idaho. I kid you not, he's picking rocks out of the soil. He's making 15 bucks an hour, but he's working so many hours, mending fences, driving a combine. He's making a bunch of money. And then the second part of his plan kicks in.
He joins the Marines at 19. Boom. I mean, it goes to basic training and infantry training battalion. And then, you know, then he becomes a scout sniper, which is a branch of the special forces. And now my son, 23 years old, married Corporal Carlos Brooks, Scout, Sniper, U. S. Marine Corps. And I asked, yeah, I know, and it's like, that's all him.
It's not me. It's like, I'm not a military guy. But I asked him, and he's got his answers, not my answers. Why are you alive? Because God made me to serve. For what would you be willing to die? He says, for my faith, and for my family, and for my friends, and for the United States of America. Boom. Mic drop. And again, people watching us, you might be like, yeah, that guy's drinking the Kool Aid.
Okay. But those are his answers. And he's, holla, he's happy. Yeah. Because he found his answers.
[00:28:41] Hala Taha: So something as I was reading these macronutrients and learning more about them, I realized that you're really a proponent of hard work and not cutting corners, right? This isn't easy. Again, it's not pushing the pleasure button and getting a dopamine rush.
This is about hard work and doing the work. Is that right?
[00:28:58] Arthur Brooks: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And everything in life is really about that. But the whole point is, I don't have to convince your audience. I mean, I have to convince a lot of, a lot of audiences. I don't have to convince your audience that hard work is awesome.
Hard work is the best. It's so fun. It's so satisfying. It's such a big payoff. And furthermore, that discipline is the kind of thing where you get just so much better at it. And so one of the things that I do with a lot of young people is I really work on their discipline so they can get into the space where hard work gets more fun and is more interesting.
And I'll give you an example of what, how I do this. For almost everybody, you have to divide up your day between grunt work and creative work. So for you, for sure, you have this big popular podcast and part of your day, There's stuff that you can do without a lot of creativity, and part of your day you need tons of creativity and ideas.
Put the creative part of your work from 8 to 11 in the morning. And here's how to do it. Here's actually how to neurochemically set yourself up for this with pure discipline. If you want a three hour window of pure creativity, you have to maximize the dopamine to your prefrontal cortex. This is the neurotransmitter of the anticipation of reward and focus and creativity.
It's an amazing thing, but you have to optimize it. The way to do that, if you're going to do that at 8 o'clock or 7. 30 in the morning, which is the best time to do it, get up at 4. 45. I kid you not, 4. 45 in the morning, every day, work out, usually resistance 6 without taxing your creativity. Don't listen to me giving a neuroscience lecture.
While you're working out. Plus, actually when you're doing lifts, your blood pressure will go up too much and you won't be able to concentrate and you'll miss the most important parts. Five to six. Take a shower, do your meditation or your prayer or whatever your concentrated spiritual or philosophical work is.
Maybe you're reading the Stoic philosophers. That's when you use that particular time. Then take your caffeine. Make sure you haven't had any caffeine until that point. Tank up! Up on caffeine and you will be in the zone phone off, no distractions. You'll get three solid hours and you will, I mean, people be like, how are you getting all this done?
And the answer is that, that's actually how you do it. So discipline leads to hard work, leads to results, leads to great fun and good times.
[00:31:16] Hala Taha: I love that morning routine. Okay. So another key concept in your book is happiness is a choice. Now you give a story about your mother in law, I believe. Can you please tell us that story?
[00:31:29] Arthur Brooks: My mother in law, she died last year at 93. Oh, sorry. She had a good long, it was okay. She had a good long life, but she really, it didn't look like things were going to go really well for her. Now, early on, she was... grew up in Spain. I mean, she's Spanish. My wife is Spanish. And so all of my in laws are in Spain.
She experienced the Spanish civil war up close and personal. Her father was a surgeon for the Republican side of the Spanish civil war, which was the, the people that were fighting the fascist dictatorship, their side lost. He was a battlefield surgeon. He was accused of something. Anyway, he spent a bunch of time in prison after the war in the Canary Islands, which is where my, my mother in law wound up growing up.
Sounds sad. Sounds hard. It turns out. Tons of people around, lots of, you know, his, her parents loved each other. They saw their father every day, even though he's in prison. She had a super great childhood despite these adverse circumstances. Okay, good news so far. Okay, turns out that because of her father, that the guy in the next jail cell over introduced my mother in law, when she was a teenager, to a guy she fell in love with, who became her husband.
Even better, right? Turns out he wasn't a super good husband, and this is an old story. So the Spanish Civil War doesn't set back her happiness, but getting married does. So he runs off multiple times, finally leaves definitively with another woman when my wife is six. No child support, poverty. And the lights are shutting off.
It's just the worst. And furthermore, she was for whatever reason, still in love with a guy. So my wife said that when she was a little girl, she would see her mother at the window crying. She might see him as he went past. It was just awful. She said, okay, so this goes on for a number of years until. And I learned about this later from my mother in law because she and I were really, really close.
I was as close to my mother in law as, as to my own mother. I loved her so much. And I, and I knew her for, I've known her for, I've been married 32 years. So of course I knew her for decades. She said that when she was 45 years old, she woke up one day and she had this like flash of realization. She had been hoping and waiting for the whole outside world to change so that she could get happier.
She said, I can't do that. I can't change the whole world. I can only change one thing, me. So she started thinking to herself, what could I change about me that would change my circumstances? She thought about it. She thought, well, you know, the problem is I am still stuck on being an appendage to that guy and he's gone.
I need to actually become independent. So she went back to college. She got her teaching degree. She became a teacher in the public schools. Teaching super marginalized immigrant kids in like the worst neighborhood in Barcelona where they lived at that time. And the result is over the next few decades, she.
Had a career she loved, kids she loved, friends that adored her that she worked with, and about 14 years later, here's the weird thing, Hala, her husband wanted to come back. And the reason was because she was different. She was like, independent, and she had it going on. He's like, can I come home? I'm sure that the other woman had thrown him out, by the way.
Anyway, can I come home? And she thought about it. She's like, I don't need this. But I want it and she invited him home and their marriage was great until the end. He died at 89 and you know by the end her health was terrible and so she was bedridden. He was doing all the cooking. He would lift her into bed.
He loved her. He took care of her and so she said in the end, she said, you know, we had 54 really wonderful years of marriage. Of course, we were married 68 years. But he was, you know, it was pretty rough for those 14 when he was gone, but the 54 years that we had that were really beautiful, especially the last, last ones were wonderful.
That was because she built the life that she wanted around four basic pillars, her faith, her family life on her terms, including her marriage, her friendships, which were her friends, and getting a job where she served other people and earned her success. And those are the four pillars that all of us need to build our lives on as well.
[00:35:26] Hala Taha: So I hope we get to touch a little bit on those pillars. I know we did touch on the work pillar. earlier in this conversation, hopefully by the end, we get time to talk about the other three. But first, I want to talk about some tactical ways that we can improve our happiness right away. One of the ways you say is learning how to better manage our emotions.
So first of all, why is it important for us to be more aware of our negative feelings and emotions? And why are those negative feelings and emotions actually not a bad thing?
[00:35:54] Arthur Brooks: Yeah. So to begin with, You die without them. You die without the bad feelings because your bad feelings are alarms that something's going on that you got to pay attention to, but they're maladapted in modern life.
You know, we have the same physiological stress reaction to being chased by a tiger and getting a really bad tweet, you know? I mean, that's not normal that we have the same, but, you know, because we're very kind of rudimentary creatures and we're not adapted to the modern environment very well. So that means that we don't need to regret our bad feelings.
Or bad emotion or negative emotions. What we need to do is to understand them, to manage them, so we can learn and grow from them. That's the goal. The goal is not to eradicate them because we don't want to die and we actually need them, but we got to make sure that we have enough knowledge so that when they're maladapted or they're becoming a source of rumination and even mental illness, that we have the knowledge, the self knowledge and practice and techniques that we can actually treat ourselves a little bit.
Without feeling so helpless all the time, or God forbid, turning to substances, which so many people do to numb themselves. So that's really why emotional self regulation is so critically important. Now, here's basically how it works. We already talked about the limbic system and emotions. These are simply, they're signals that come to the very ancient part of your brain, you know, the brain stem and all that, that says something's moving around you, you smelled something, you heard something, that sends a signal to your limbic system that that should turn into an emotion, which is a machine language that will deliver to your prefrontal cortex so that you can react.
It's a relay, this limbic system. If you don't actually use the relay, if you don't actually figure out what your emotions are so you can react the way you want, then you'll just be limbic, you know? You feel angry, you yell. You feel sad, you cry. You see something funny, you burst out laughing. It's like a little kid!
[00:37:42] Hala Taha: monkey brain? Is that the same thing as monkey brain?
[00:37:45] Arthur Brooks: Well, monkey brain is one that just can't focus on anything for any period of time. That's really not here all the time, but it is a monkey brain for sure. I mean, the whole point is it's kind of like emotions are ghosts and the ghosts are running the show.
Or maybe it's, you know, the CEO is in front, but the CEO is not paying attention. And, you know, the workers are running around the company doing whatever they want without a leader. So the way to deal with this. As you need to move the experience, you need the emotions, but you need to move the experience of the emotions into the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
And there's a bunch of ways to do that. That's called metacognition, being aware of your own thinking, being aware of your own emotions, metacognition. How do we do it? Number one, you gotta put time between your emotions and your reactions, and you have to experience them in the executive centers of your brain.
That's why. When you learn to meditate, one of the things you'll do, and I've studied meditation for years and years and years and years. And one of the classic meditation techniques is to say, I'm going to look at myself as if I were another person. So you sit in meditation in the quiet of your room and you say, Hala is feeling sad right now.
Why is Hala feeling sad right now? Something happened. Oh, yes, indeed. Well, that's an interesting feeling, isn't it? Uh, I think that's actually an overblown feeling. It might be related to something else. And you look at yourself analytically. That's a really good way to use sitting in meditation. Journaling.
Outstanding. You can't write something unless it's in your prefrontal cortex. And so writing about your feelings just to yourself and then burning the notes if you need to. Super important. I mean, there's all kinds of ways. Therapy is supposed to do this. If you have a therapist who says, I'm going to teach you about you, two thumbs up.
If you have one who says, I'm going to solve your problem, run. Because that's actually not going to be useful to you. Prayer is incredibly useful. You know, people who have traditionally religious... practices, you know, sitting in prayer and asking God to help you with your emotions is moving them into the prefrontal cortex of your brain.
And then what's in your prefrontal cortex, you got choices, man. I mean, you can decide how to react. You can substitute one emotion for another. You can decide to disregard emotions by simply observing the outside world. You got a whole repertoire of ways that you can manage yourself.
[00:39:55] Hala Taha: Metacognition to me is like very, very interesting.
So basically you're observing things as if they're happening. to somebody else. You mentioned journaling, right? So let's talk about that because I thought that was a really cool strategy to try to do this. How can we learn from traumatic experiences through journaling?
[00:40:13] Arthur Brooks: The problem with a lot of traumatic experiences for people is that they're a ghost in the brain.
They're unsupervised. The memories, the sensations. They're purely limbic, and they're uncomfortable, so the natural tendency is to want to make them go away. Now, some people make them go away by numbing them with drugs and alcohol or, you know, other kinds of behaviors that are compulsive and addictive and not good.
Other ways to do that are to, to kind of accept them, but never really to analyze them very much at all, to kind of identifying oneself as a victim, to get kind of the victim identity. This is a very unhealthy thing to do that leads to a lot of misery and by the way, when you are a victim, you tend to make a lot of misery around you, you know, that's when you go into the, you get radical politics and you spend too much time on social media.
It's like, don't do that, then you're going to spread your misery around the way to deal with this. And sometimes it's very important to have the help of a therapist to do this is to say. I want to understand these feelings that I'm actually having. It doesn't mean you have to recreate the feelings. No, there are plenty there.
But to look at these things from a certain remove. To say, this thing is really, really on my mind. What exact, to name the emotion that you're actually feeling. It's like, I'm feeling residual fear. Every time this thing comes up, I'm feeling real sadness about something that happened to me. And to say, not to think about the event, but to think about the sadness itself.
To really think about the fear itself. To think about how it makes you feel in the pit of your stomach. That it raises your blood pressure and your cortisol and your stress markers. That it's doing all this stuff and really notice that. You don't need to go over the source of your fear, because you've gone over that a billion times, but to go over the sensation itself.
Then, actually, you're understanding that feeling in your executive centers, and that's your CEO being alerted that your leader needs to be a leader.
[00:42:12] Hala Taha: I want to talk about mirrors, because that was one of the most fascinating things that I read in your book, was the fact that we need to be more about other people and less focused about ourselves.
And you say to avoid mirrors, and even digital mirrors, like Googling ourselves, self view on Zoom, social media mentions, and things like that. So I thought that was really interesting. Can you tell
[00:42:32] Arthur Brooks: us about that? Yeah, there's a lot of philosophical work, and even work from Buddhism and other religions, about what's called the I Self.
And the bliss that actually comes when we, metacognitively to disregard all of the inputs, you know, all of our feelings in and of themselves, so that we can be in the state of looking outward. There's a phrase in the New Testament to the Bible, in the Christian Bible, Judge not, lest ye be judged. And what that basically is, when you're going around saying, you know, this coffee is bitter and crummy, and this traffic is terrible, and, and, you know, just judge, judge, judge, judge.
You're basically giving the world, and you're giving permission to everybody to be judged. And then it's all social comparison and then it's looking in mirrors and it's just life is misery. So, the way to get around this is to have a strategy of actually not thinking about yourself or referring to yourself.
And the right way to start is by manually getting rid of the mirrors in your life. I work with a guy, pretty consistently now, he's a pretty well known guy, who in an earlier part of his life, until his late 20s, he was a fitness influencer and a fitness model. So, I mean, This is serious. To do that, you have to have, you know, discipline beyond what is actually even healthy, to be sure, because you, you know, you have single digit body fat all year round, really high muscle mass all year round, he didn't want to take PEDs, meaning that he never could eat anything that he wanted, he always had to have his fitness on point, I mean, it was social media, and he was on, in magazines, and like, the whole deal, and he was completely miserable, he went 10 years not eating anything that he liked, And I was feeling kind of grumpy and feeling sort of sad.
And the truth is, you will mess up your hormones if you sit at single digit... Men, if men sit at single digit body fat or women are under 18 percent body fat for extended periods of time, you're going to mess up your hormones. And that's going to mess up your emotional life, and that was what was going on for him.
So he figured out that what he needed to do was to get away from this addiction to his image. He was addicted to his image. And so many people are. They're like, I'm going to check my mentions. That's dopamine, by the way. It's a dopamine hit. Did people like my post? You know, whatever happens to it. Did I get new followers?
Yada, yada, yada. That's the way that whole thing works. So here's what he did. He actually, he's a fitness influencer, mind you. He got a new job, you know, he actually got a job that didn't require that he be, you know, be naked all the time, basically. And he took all of the mirrors out of his house. 100 percent of the mirrors out of his house, and then he showered in the dark for a year.
So he didn't know if he had abs. For a lot of people watching this are like, yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't have that problem.
Well, you do. You do. It's probably the mentions on your social media and you're hitting the app too much. And so probably you need to get the app off your phone, make it harder to look at, and put a moratorium on looking at any of your mentions, and then limit your social media to a total of 30 minutes a day across all platforms.
And trust me, your outlook on life is going to change because you're going to be focused outward and not inward so very much, and you're going to get happier. As sure as Holl and I are sitting here, you're going to get happier.
[00:45:41] Hala Taha: Yeah, so I guess a part of that is a little bit confusing to me, because I always feel like when you look your best, you dress your best, you've got, like, for girls, you put on your makeup, you feel confident, you feel happy.
So for me, also, isn't there a balance? Because if you totally don't care about that, couldn't you also be unhappy because you're not presenting yourself in the
[00:46:00] Arthur Brooks: best way? Yeah, I recommend presenting yourself in the best way, but not looking at yourself. That's what it comes down to. Not looking at yourself.
Yeah, I mean, it's like, sure, I'm going to put on a nice suit, and I'm going to go out and I'm going to give a speech. You know, I'm going to make sure that my shoes are shined just because I want to make a good impression on people. I want to make a professional impression on people. But let's also think about what we're trying to do to not go too far.
If you're a married person, you shouldn't be trying to do everything you can to attract a person that's not your spouse. It's counterproductive. All it is is sheer ego and mirrors is what it comes down to. So absolutely look your best to be productive. And so you can feel professional and you can feel kind of spiffed up and that's great, but stop looking at yourself is the whole idea.
You're going to go crazy doing that. And furthermore, you're going to miss life. You're going to miss everything. You'll be able to look at it in the mirror and it's like, like, you know, Haley's comet is going past. Here's like a little story to remember about this. There's this old Zen Buddhist koan. A koan is a riddle.
The Zen Buddhist monks will train their junior monks by giving them these like perplexing little stories that they're supposed to think about. And that's how they learn Zen Buddhism based on these riddles. There's one that does this. There's a story of a junior monk, he's walking down the road by himself, a path in the forest, and there's a senior monk, an old man coming toward him, and he recognizes him.
And the junior monk says, where are you going? And the senior monk says, I'm on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage? The young man says, wow, where's your pilgrimage taking you? And the senior monk says, I don't know. And the junior monk says, why don't you know? And the senior monk says, because not knowing is the most intimate form of knowledge.
Now here's the key thing. Here's the point. Not knowing where your life is going to take you requires that you be looking outward and being open to adventure. And if you're looking in the mirror, checking your mentions and like me, me, me, me, first of all, it's boring, boring, boring. But the second thing is you'll go mad and third and last but not least, you're going to miss the most interesting things in life.
Because not knowing is the most intimate. Yeah, so
[00:48:05] Hala Taha: it's important to observe life, but you also say it's important not to judge. Can you define what judging is and how we can avoid it if we have that bad
[00:48:12] Arthur Brooks: habit? Yeah, judging is actually not outward. Judging sound looks like you're looking outward. Judgment is all inward because when you judge something, it's your opinion.
It's your cast on what you're looking at. So if you can go an hour, just try it, it's super hard. You go an hour and not say, I hate this traffic, this traffic is terrible. Say, the traffic is unusually heavy today. No judgment. This coffee has a strong bitter flavor, not I hate this coffee. What crummy music?
Say, I haven't heard this music before, it's not the kind of music I usually listen to. Observe without judgment. Because basically, when you observe with judgment, it's just like looking and looking at your reflection and the thing that you're staring at. And then, here's the best part that you get when you judge less.
You will judge yourself less, because everything that you're doing is giving yourself permission and others permission to judge you. And that's all social comparison, and that's just the thief of joy. That's just misery, is how all that social comparison... If you can go through life... Now, if you can go through a day, if you can go through an hour just by walking down the street and just looking outward at the majesty of the universe and not judging anything, it's going to blow your mind.
It's going to change your brain chemistry. And if you practice that every day, things are going to start to change.
[00:49:30] Hala Taha: Yeah. I feel like those are the two areas that I could work on most, the mirrors and the judgment and just reframing everything. So in your book, you have four pillars for happier lives. We alluded to that previously.
Could you at a high level in our last 10 minutes together, go over the four pillars, family, friendship, work,
[00:49:48] Arthur Brooks: and faith. There's a million practices of the happiest people, right? It's what you find. But basically it comes down to four big areas. There are four big areas to put a deposit in, in your life.
These are, this is your happiness 401k plan. You need to make an investment in four accounts every day. If you want to get happier. Now, people don't do it because they're so distracted by their emotions. So if you do the stuff that we talked about before, then you won't be distracted. So you can focus on these four things more every single day.
They're your faith. Your family, your friends, and your work that serves other people. So quickly we'll go through them because it's very easy to misunderstand these ideas. Faith does not mean my religious faith. I'm a Catholic. It's super important to me. But as a scientist, I will tell you that it's the transcendental walk in ideas and concepts.
every single day that are bigger than you and blow your mind. That's what you need. Why? Because you need to get small. Holland needs to be little. And if you don't, then you're going to be focused on yourself and you'll go crazy. I mean, it's the whole mirror thing again and again and again. The best way to zoom out is to expose yourself to amazing things.
You know, maybe that's religion. Maybe that's a meditation practice. Maybe that's walking in nature for an hour before dawn every day without devices. Maybe that's studying the great works of Johann Sebastian Bach and learning all of the cantatas. But whatever it is, it has to zoom you out. Maybe it's reading the Stoics like my friend Ryan Holliday.
He always, you know, he has all these books about the Stoics. That's a great way to do it, but you need that. That's what I mean by faith. That means not me, the whole thing, and I'm little. Second is family life. That's the most mystical kind of love because it's super intense, but you didn't choose it. And God knows you wouldn't have chosen it, in certain, in so many cases, because they drive you crazy.
But if you sacrifice family love for anything besides abuse, you're making a mistake. And political differences of opinion are not abuse. This is super important. A lot of problems with, you know, people who are Gen Z and Millennials is they've been conscripted into a culture war that baby boomers started.
Do not be a conscientious objector to the political polarization and the culture wars of people my age because they just want to use you. The media and politicians want to use you to fight their battles and the way that they'll do it is, you know, turning you against your uncle or whatever. It's a mistake for your happiness.
Third is your friendships. And there's two kinds of friendships out there. Real and deal, deal friends. Those are super useful. And everybody that's a fan of young and profiting has a lot of deal friends, useful people, and that's fine. But those are different than your real friends.
Your real friends are useless. You don't need them to get you forward and to help your career. They might help you, but that's not the point. You love them no matter if they can help you or not. And a lot of young people today have fewer and fewer real friends. Put a line down the side of a paper, Write down the 10 people who that you see the most are closest to you every day and then write real or deal After their names and you know the differences and if it's all deal and no real you got work to do And you got to do the work and last but not least is your work And we've talked about work We talked about work in the last time that we got together and we talked about work I talk about work all the time work to be a source of joy Doesn't have to be high paying.
It doesn't have to be high prestige. It doesn't have to be a lot of power Everybody watching us is going to get those worldly rewards, but those are not the rewards to accumulate for joy It's earning your success through your hard work personal merit and responsibility And and being acknowledged and rewarded for your hard work So get a job where you can get ahead on the basis of working hard and being good And you get rewarded for it.
That's number one. And number two is you serve others You get dignity from people actually needing you, which is the source of dignity, and you know who they are and you can see it. Those are the way that you can actually be happy. And so faith, family, friends, and work, as we've defined it here, if you're putting deposits in those accounts every day, you're getting happier.
As sure as I'm sitting here, I promise it's true. Okay, before
[00:53:46] Hala Taha: we go, I do have to bring up gratitude. So talk to us about why gratitude is so important and how we can use gratitude to substitute a lot of our negative emotions. Thank you.
[00:53:55] Arthur Brooks: Thank you. Yeah, gratitude is a substitute emotion that actually substitutes for a natural evolved tendency to see the negative.
Now, a lot of people who are watching this, they're like, I'm just such a negative person. I feel like I go through the whole, you know, through the whole day and I only see the negative. You, me and everybody, because evolution gives you the negativity bias. That's why you're alive. If you went through life whistling down the street, only seeing the nice things you'd be eaten by a tiger so fast, right?
I mean, your ancestors would not have made it past the Pleistocene. Trust me. The negativity bias means that you see somebody sweetly smiling at you, nice, but somebody frowning at you, pay attention, because that's a threat. You pay attention to threats because it's urgent that you do so, and that leads you to a negativity bias.
Now, in modern life, that's maladapted, because we have a lot more to be grateful for than resentful about, or fearful about. And that means we need to calibrate our emotions consciously. Knowledge is power on this. You can choose the emotion of gratitude when you feel resentment. Resentment is the natural emotion, but gratitude is the chosen emotion.
How? By saying to yourself, I'm feeling a lot of resentment right now, but the truth of the matter is I have a ton to feel happy about. It's so easy for me to do this. You know, it's so easy for me to be like, yeah, you know, my book is not selling as much as I like. I got a book with Oprah Winfrey. I should be grateful.
You know, it's so easy for me to forget it. You know, I'm the professor of this stuff and I forget. And so the way that you do that. It's doing it on purpose and being really, really conscious of it is basic realism that counterposes against your natural evolutionary tendency. Think about it that way. Yeah.
[00:55:32] Hala Taha: I know that a lot of people struggle with this gratitude. They're not naturally a person who expresses gratitude. So for example, I have a boyfriend, I'm madly in love with him. He's great. But when I ask him how his day is, he'll say, it's okay. And I'll, I'll be like, well, did something bad happen? Uh, didn't you, like, we, you went to work, you, we had a walk, you had a nice dinner, like, we worked out.
Is anything wrong? And he, no, it was okay. Like, and he's more of like a realist. For me, I'm just like, what do you mean? It was a great day. We had a great day. And I'm like so positive about it. So talk to us about how we can become more gracious if that's not naturally who we are, if we're more of a
[00:56:09] Arthur Brooks: realist.
This journey starts with knowing your emotional profile. So just based on this, I'm going to say that your boyfriend is either a judge or a poet. What I'm talking about here is in the book, we actually have a test called the Pannus test. And the Pannus test is, uh, it tests the intensity of your negative and positive emotions.
You can be high emotionally positive and high emotionally negative intensity. That's called the mad scientist. That's somebody who's super high affect. That's probably you, Holla. Either you're a cheerleader or you're a, or a mad scientist. A mad scientist feels intense positive and intense negative. A cheerleader feels intense positive and low negative.
So you're one of those two. I can tell that right now. You're one of those two. Probably a cheerleader. Yeah. You're probably a cheerleader and that's great. Everybody wants to be a cheerleader, right? Because it sounds like you're happy. That's actually not perfect in a marriage. You don't want two cheerleaders together because cheerleaders hate bad news.
And so if that's the case, they never see threats. And what they do is they all spend all the money. If it's a cheerleader married to a cheerleader, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend. It's like, we didn't know we were going to go bankrupt by running up the credit cards. That's a problem. Anyway, then you have on the other side, people who have high negative and low positive, those are poets.
You know, they tend toward gloominess, but they're very realistic. They're very realistic about the world. Or you can just be a low affect person. Low positive and low negative. And those are the people who just kind of like, they don't get perturbed. They're sort of unflappable. Based on what you told me, your boyfriend is either a poet or a judge.
And you're either a mad scientist or a cheerleader. That's great because these are profiles that fit together really well to complete each other. You're not too compatible. You're complimentary, but you got to understand each other. You got to lift him up. He's going to mellow you out. That's basically the way that it works.
That makes sense.
[00:57:56] Hala Taha: Yeah, I love that. I want to look up that. You said there's a quiz in your book or an exercise in
[00:58:00] Arthur Brooks: the book? Yeah, that's in the it's in the second big chapter is called the positive affect negative affect series And after you look at it after people get the book and read about it They go to my website Arthur Brooks comm and take the quiz and once they actually take the quiz On my website or any place else that you find it, you can figure out which one you are and then it's going to start making, probably a lot of things in your life are going to start making a lot more sense.
[00:58:23] Hala Taha: Awesome. So I will stick that link in the show notes. I'll make sure your team gives us that link so that everybody can take that quiz and I'll take the quiz and talk about it in the outro. So I'm going to close out with this. You say that even if you could get rid of your unhappiness, it would be a huge mistake.
Why do you believe that the secret to the best life is to accept your unhappiness?
[00:58:42] Arthur Brooks: You need unhappiness. You need unhappiness. You need sacrifice. You need difficulty. You need negative emotions and negative experiences, because you need to be fully alive. You need enjoyment, which means you have to defer your gratification.
You need satisfaction, which means you need to temper your wants and not just your haves. And most of all, you need meaning and meaning requires resilience. It requires experiences. It requires learning and growing from the bad things that happen in your life as well. People who try to avoid unhappiness, paradoxically, they wind up avoiding their happiness.
And this is the most important way to be profiting in the business of the startup of your life is to take it all to wake up in the morning and say, man, this is stuff's going to happen today. And all I can say is I'm going to learn and grow from everything happens. So bring. It on.
[00:59:33] Hala Taha: So the new book is co authored by Oprah Winfrey.
It's Build the Life You Want. Where can
[00:59:38] Arthur Brooks: people find it? Anyplace where fine books are sold. You can find it on Barnes and Noble, you can find it on Amazon, you can find it almost anyplace. You can find it at Target. It's at the register at Target, which is really great. So and uh, I wrote it for everybody who's watching us today and I hope you get a lot from it.
And if you like it, make sure that you become the teacher of the ideas to the people that you love in your life.
[00:59:56] Hala Taha: Awesome. So I always close out my interview with the same questions, then we do something fun at the end of the year. So what is one actionable thing our younger profiteers can do today to become more profiting tomorrow?
[01:00:07] Arthur Brooks: The one thing they can do to become more profiting tomorrow is to think about somebody that you love and they may not know it and call them up or write them an email or a text that says, I don't know if you know this, but I love you and see what happens. You're going to start a series of events that Might be pretty unpredictable, but that's the basis of entrepreneurship.
[01:00:30] Hala Taha: I love that. And what is your secret to profiting in life? don't have to bring up anything we talked about in today's conversation. Just anything that comes to mind. What is your secret to profiting in
[01:00:39] Arthur Brooks: life? The secret to profiting in life for me really is loving more and not pushing love away.
I mean, this is really the key. Remember that faith, family, friends, and work. That's the love of the divine. That's the love of your family. That's the love of your friends. And it's expressing your love for all of humanity by the way you earn your daily bread. If you remember one single thing about happiness is that happiness is love full stop.
[01:01:01] Hala Taha: Awesome. Well, it was such a great conversation. Arthur, always a pleasure to have you on young and profiting podcasts. Where can people find more about you and everything that you do?
[01:01:10] Arthur Brooks: Arthur Brooks. com. It's a one stop shop for, you know, you can watch videos on happiness. You get, you can download activities on happiness.
You can read all my articles in the Atlantic there and get links to the books and everything else that you want. If you're interested in learning more about happiness, that's a good place to start Arthur Brooks. com. Awesome. Thank you, Arthur. Thank you, Hala. You know, young improfiters, happiness can be a pretty elusive thing Arthur Brooks told us that this is partly because most of us don't even really understand what happiness is. For one thing, it's not a feeling. And it's also not a destination. So then what is happiness?
[01:01:50] Hala Taha: Well, Arthur boiled down this question into three basic ingredients, or macronutrients as he called them. Enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning. Enjoyment is so much more than just pleasure. Pleasure can guide you to survive and maybe pass on your genes. But it could also lead to bad things like addiction and isolation.
To get enjoyment, which is the true source of happiness according to Arthur, you need to find the source of your pleasure and then add in two things, other people and memory. Satisfaction, as the Rolling Stones say, is notoriously hard to get, or keep for that matter. It's the joy we feel after the struggle.
If you want to be a successful person, you have to figure out how to defer gratification. And the hard work and the resilience it takes to do that is what ultimately leads to satisfaction. It won't last and you can never keep it, but you can get in that space where hard work gets more fun and more interesting and produces renewed satisfaction.
The third macronutrient is purpose. Human beings crave meaning. We can get by without enjoyment and satisfaction for periods. But without purpose, we're lost. And finding meaning often requires pain. And that is why, even in our pursuit of greater happiness, we have to accept and learn from our unhappiness.
We need unhappiness, struggle, difficulty. As Arthur said, you need negative emotions and experiences to be fully alive. And if you try to avoid unhappiness, you will avoid happiness as well.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Yap. I hope you all loved this episode as much as I did. And if you listened, learned, and profited from this conversation with the insightful Arthur Brooks, Share this episode with your friends and family and drop us a five star review on Apple podcast. If you prefer to watch your podcast as videos, you can find us on YouTube.
Just look up young and profiting and you'll find all our episodes on there. You can also find me on Instagram at Yap with Hala or LinkedIn by searching my name. It's Hala Taha. But keep in mind, I am the LinkedIn queen. So if you want to reach out to me, Instagram is the best place because I can actually see my messages on there.
And before we wrap up, I want to give a big shout out to my incredible Yap production team. You guys are amazing. Thank you for all that you do behind the scenes. This is your host, Hala Taha, aka the podcast princess, signing off.
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