By Faiza Akhtar
Book: The Art of the Good Life, 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth, and Success
Authors: Rolf Dobelli
Length: 272 pages
Published by Hachette Book Group
Year of publication: 2017
ISBN: ISBN 9781473667488
52 Surprising Shortcuts To Happiness, Wealth, And Success
Since the beginning of human existence, we have all been looking for the keys to happiness, good life, and contentment. How to live happily? What roles do fate, money, our circumstances, and achievements play in constituting a good life?
Rolf Dobelli is a Swiss novelist, founder of the World Minds Foundation, Co-founder (getAbstract), and entrepreneur. He is a celebrated writer and has researched extensively on Stoicism and Social Psychology for the past 40 years. He has authored many books like the prequel to this book “The Art Of Thinking Clearly” which has been a best seller since 2011.
The book “The Art of the Good Living” begins with a beautiful forward and an acknowledgment page, in the end, the book is divided into 52 precise, short, and easy-to-read chapters. Each chapter resonates with one another and most of them are interrelated which makes them easy to understand, engaging, and laden with research findings and references for reinforcing the mental tools he has introduced for a good life.
The author presents the idea that happiness is not associated with extrinsic factors in life, it is more of an internal process.
The most important happiness hack in this book revolved around being grateful and modest, not following the crowds, not showing off our blessings, and staying committed to our personal principles. These good reminders are the tools we need to be gentler with ourselves and those around us.
My takeaway is No matter what life improvement plan we have, things will always show up un-planned and we will have to re-adjust ourselves. We must always brace ourselves for unwanted situations to occur while continuously working on self-correction, planning, and growth to receive life with open arms rather than turning bitter.
He also talks about how we should live up to our principles. The most commendable was the Black-box chapter where he introduced mental tools like radical acceptance of events, and identification of grass-root errors that lead to certain failures in the past, so we can learn from them and move on.
I particularly liked the quote “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no bold old pilots”.
The Author describes how if we work on either dodging or fixing the downside of life be it sickness, depression, poverty, dysfunctional marriages, bad influences, or drug abuse we can have a better chance at a good life. Similarly,
I admire the notion he had about gratitude when dealing with personal success. He stresses that gratitude and sharing with the less fortunate is the key that will bring in the most happiness and satisfaction because our success story is not truly ours, a lot went into the design of your being, your genes, your birthplace, education, country of birth and sheer luck that success knocked your door. Be humble, grounded, and grateful. Be mindful of not turning into a narcissist of your win stories, Modesty and Gratitude are rare but these two attributes are keys to happiness.
One life principle got reinforcement from this book, that is You cannot make everyone happy, not all the time. Sometimes saying no to favors can save you peace of mind, valuable time with your family, and energy that can be used into something far more productive. Moreover, it saves you from manipulation that comes with favor reciprocation.
My interest was piqued when Rolf Dobelli described how we have developed a nag for constant praise, instant gratification, and approval from others be it our families, friends, neighbors, or social media. This habit has put us under so much stress and depression nowadays as we have constant access to social media platforms and ever-changing technologies.
I can relate to how liberating it was for me since I have been trying to exercise control over this need to be in everyone’s good book all the time. These External scorecards are detrimental to a good and peaceful life. He has attempted to explain how essential it is for us to be internally motivated rather than externally.
The way he describes why trying to change others can make us miserable was beautiful. This is what has caused nuisance over the years, trying to change people to make them more acceptable for ourselves. No person is tailor-made hence we should invest more of our energies into our development rather than trying to fix others.
I also appreciate that in the folds of this book he wrote If we keep living with the victim mentality and we cannot lead a peaceful life. We will lack trust in people, cannot bond on an honest level and always look at every event in life with the same looking glass. Living in the past is simply not ideal and we must always move on.
As quoted by the Author, “If you can do something to mitigate the current problems in your life, then do it. If you cannot, then put up with the situation”.
One more mental note I made is that he highlights how it is crucial to select the battles we choose. In other words, Focus, time, and money are expendable resources, we must be wiser where we invest them. The author also mentioned that the focus is indivisible, unlike money and time, as quoted him “The attention you’re giving your Facebook stream on your mobile phone is the attention you’re taking away from the person sitting opposite”.
Another worth mentioning Mental tool is “Mental Subtraction”. The author emphasizes that we need to make an internal effort to realize happiness by excluding wants from what we already have. I cannot agree any less because if I look at my life at this moment, and count my blessings right then I have no reason to be sad and for that I am grateful.
There are many occasions across the book which engage you deeply, ideas are either thought-provoking or reassuring. But then there were a few chapters, which I did not agree with; for instance, he made the subject of community and social work, instigating collective change and being ambitious a mundane matter. Like he suggests that for charity purposes, simply donate money, and no need to go out of your way to volunteer physically to make someone’s life better. I can see the downside of volunteer tourism to some extent but the contentment that swells inside of you due to it is priceless and incomparable. I believe spreading goodness by whatever possible means can bring additional value to our lives.
Logically Self-help books do not guarantee some extraordinary solutions to our Life-affairs, this one was no different, it provides a healthy handful of simple solutions to safeguard and maximize your mental peace are helpful if there is consistency in exercising them.
Recommendations for this book have been surprisingly good and believe me if you like books based on real-life events and research, you might enjoy what this one has to offer.