Happiness Isn't What You Think It Is

Smile More Associations Now May/June 2018 Issue

Author Mark Manson says everything you know about happiness is wrong and shares three ways to boost your “baseline level of happiness.”

One of the first paragraphs of Mark Manson’s ebook The Guide to Happiness begins with this: “Most of your assumptions about happiness are likely wrong.”

So, if you’re the type of person who thinks a new car or a fancy new job title or a dream trip to Tahiti will make you happy, he’s talking to you.

Manson says your external life experiences and superficial gains and losses don’t affect your happiness permanently. In other words, no matter what you do or what you achieve, you’ll always return to your “baseline level of happiness.”

But Manson—the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** and a Game Changer at ASAE’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Exposition—says you can increase that baseline if you “take control of where you end up and how you get there.”

Here are his initial three steps:

1. Take responsibility for everything in your life. Before you can take control over your life, Manson says, you must take responsibility for everything that occurs in it—from the bad boss who treats you poorly to being out of shape. While you may not be responsible for something happening to you, you’re always responsible for how you respond to it. “At every turn ask yourself not ‘Why did this happen to me?’ but instead ‘What am I going to do about it?’” he writes.

“At every turn ask yourself not ‘Why did this happen to me?’ but instead ‘What am I going to do about it?’”

2. Make courage a habit. There’s a good chance that you don’t pursue certain things in your life because they either intimidate you or make you anxious. You have to get over that, Manson says. “The less courage you have, … the less control over your life you’re going to have, and, therefore, the lower your baseline level of happiness will be.”

3. Set small and attainable goals. When people decide they want to change, they often set overly ambitious goals that set them up for failure. Instead, Manson recommends starting with easily achievable goals that will raise your self-esteem, strengthen your willpower, and “inch your baseline confidence and happiness ahead.”

See Mark Manson at ASAE’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Exposition, taking place August 18-21 in Chicago. For more information and to register, visit annual.asaecenter.org.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Learning: Smile More.”]