So curious if these thoughts are inevitable but only after reaching a certain amount of success and self-awareness. Something I’ve been mulling over is the most fulfilling lives are the most mundane. But I’m not sure there’s a way (outside being born as a monk) of realizing that before striving and stretching to achieve and then only after realizing it’s not the achievement itself that brings happiness but our expression of our art that does the trick.

If you can express love while doing the mundane I think that’s one of the ultimate happiness generators. For example, doing dishes is an expression of love to your home and family. It’s how we spend the majority of our time. That and the rituals and routines we create. Making breakfast for our kids each morning. Tending a garden every year. Then sprinkle in the peak moments like you said and you get a fulfilling and memorable life.

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I enjoyed this essay, but don't think I agree with all of it. I don't know exactly what your missing but think there is a role for good stresses, some adversity, working together, spontaneity, challenges etc which all can play into happiness and a memorable life.

Is your definition of happiness more suited to contentedness? Is content the baseline and happiness a modifier?


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allocate 80% of your efforts towards happiness in the present

allocate 20% for memorability

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Why do we want our lives to be memorable? So that we can reminisce the memories when we are old?

I think when we have learned to be present and enjoy in the here and now, why would we ever look back on the past, regardless of how memorable it was?

And regarding looking at pictures of your kids, if you are fully present in the now do you think you will ever get the urge or a thought to look at the pictures in the first place? Just curious.

Great read, btw!

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"Find a routine you could do every day that immerses you in the present and gets you into flow, using the minimum amount of pharmaceutical, technological, or other tools as possible.

Then, occasionally break that routine to create peak moments that can pay you happiness dividends for the rest of your life."

This prompted me to think about how games like chess are surprisingly addictive. All you need is a chess set and a book (or these days, just a computer), and you can learn and train at the game. And even after decades, you can still feel like you're learning new things and new perspectives, and that you can still improve your own game.

The main motivation of day-to-day time spent on chess being to prepare for and compete at tournaments, 'peak moments' where you can meet people from all around the world who share the same language, and reach a heightened sense of 'flow'.

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Interesting fix, truly taking in the mundane is something I'm trying to write about

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Interesting read! Re: taking pictures, I was thinking about this at a wedding lately.

My mom was dancing and singing a song with her favorite aunt. The smile on their faces was huge. While they were dancing, my dad grabbed his phone to record the last minute or so of them dancing. Afterwards, he leaned over to me and said, “She’s going to LOVE that.” And he was right. I know how much my mom loves that aunt, and for her to be able to relive that memory will be priceless for her. I think that’s what videos/pictures are best used for: reliving the moments and experiences we never hope to end.

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Fun and thought provoking, thank you.

Reminds me of passages from Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I paraphrase: the side of the mountain sustains life, not the top. To live only for future goals is shallow. But the top of the mountain defines the sides. With no goal comes no journey and no purpose. And: if the motorcycle is running today than why worry? But if it’s been a while since you’ve change the oil than you’d better worry or you will be unhappy soon.

Duality. Balance. The stuff you wrote.

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The premise is faulty. There is no dichotomy between happy life vs memorable life. Happy life and memorable life are the outcomes of the same thing: a purposeful life. It's a modern confusion to think that happiness and memories are the goals rather than the side-effects.

In fact, the obsession with happiness is at the root of most of our modern day social problems. Because happiness is all about us and our narrow experience.

If happiness isn't the goal, then what to do with our lives? We should find purpose and fulfillment. Purpose and fulfillment ultimately leads to happiness. But by focusing on the happiness, one will never actually find it.

Purpose and fulfillment requires that one takes on risks and responsibility for the sake of others. These are also things that lead to a memorable life. This is not my invention; tons of books have been written about this throughout history: Stoics, the Bible, Victor Frankl, etc.

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I recently wrote a piece on nostalgia and how it tricks us into thinking our present moment isn't good.

The truth is, 95% of our daily activity is boring and mundane. The other 5% is where we truly are happy.

Time is like great filter that removes those mundane moments and only preserves the 5%.

That's why I like to enjoy the present moment whether it seems good or bad.

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I see it as an 80:20 type relationship. 80% mundane, boring things that make happy *so* I can do the 20% meaningful things that probably won't make me happy in any immediate sense.

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Great read, Nat, and thought provoking. Is the goal happiness? Memories? Contentment? Balance? Peace? Now in my sixth decade, I look back and see so much striving in my past, and also challenges and trials, many that were out of my control to avoid. Overall, I have always lived knowing I have a purpose during each season, year, day, or moment. Enduring breast cancer treatment this year did not make me happy. Did I have a choice? Not really. But I still had JOY. And joy isn't dependent on my circumstances, it depends on my firm belief that this life isn't the end all.

I totally agree with being present, but as a photographer, I am so grateful for the times I captured moments that I look back on to remind my brain of connection, laughter, and beauty.

It matters what your brain and heart and life are anchored to.

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This is one of the most meaningful articles on Happiness. Your “formula”: routine + break routine = happiness is very accurate imho - it “feels” right. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Reminds me of an interview where, asked about why he never takes a break, Goggins mentioned his little “mental vacations” or something like that. Stuff as simple as having a shower in silence and just think and breathe and relax. I find myself doing this on a consistent basis, not having taken a holiday for more than one year. I probably should, but for now the simplicity of accepting the situation and allowing some small mindfulness breaks here and there during the day really helps.

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This rings both true and false. After 40 years, these are the rules I have come up with for my own happiness:

1. Avoid things that give me extreme anxiety or stress. Defined by negating things that make me unhappy. Examples: a) Super stressful job b) Living close to toxic, negative people c) Creating complications in life d) unnecessary discomfort.

2. Run / Workout everyday

3. Drink enough water

4. Take my supplements

5. Write a little bit at least everyday

6. Travel / see the world. This needn't be big budget or to far away lands. Even a walk in a new neighborhood for an hour to me feels like new travel. I want to keep seeing the world regularly and this makes me extremely happy (even if I am seeing the most mundane things)

But above all this is a base level comfort / lack of stress. All of this goes out of the window if a close one is suffering or if there is real danger.

Also, this applies to a base of 1 - me. And it took me at least a decade of looking at my own moods and behavior to identify the things that truly made me feel happy. And there's still no guarantee this won't change for me in the next decade :).

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Loved it Nat :) always exciting to see an essay from you in my inbox

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