Lately I’ve been very focused on emotional intelligence and compassion, so today I was watching a TED talk today by Chade-Meng Tan, and in it he was talking about the happiest man alive.
Matthieu Ricard was a biochemist, but now he is a Buddhist monk. He has been referred to as the happiest person in the world when referring to a study he participated in. Apparently, he was a part of a happiness study done at the University of Wisconsin, and he scored above average compared to all of the volunteers.
Of course, I had to check this guy out, and it turns out that he has a TED talk as well called ‘The Habits of Happiness’. This one is a long one at 20 minutes but it is worth the watch. He is quite funny and makes the talk go fast.
If you don’t have time, I will summarize a few key points (or takeaways that I had) below the video.
Some Thoughts About ‘The Habits Of Happiness’ Talk
I was laughing out loud when Matthieu talked about how people were pissed that he wrote about happiness. I find that a lot of people who are stuck in the mindset that life is meant to be hard will argue happiness thoughts, theories, and – well, anything to do with happiness.
Another point that made me laugh is that no one wakes up thinking about having or wanting to have a bad day. I guess I never really thought of it that way. Our dreams, goals, expectations are usually rooted in the desire for happiness – “I hope today is going to be good!”
But, here’s the big point that he made (and something that has been shown over and over) – pleasure and long-term happiness don’t go together. Something that causes pleasure is all about the experience at the time, and it is not enough for true happiness.
He uses an example of chocolate cake. It provides pleasure for our taste buds and cravings. At first we feel good eating it, but then it starts to become less than pleasurable, and like he says – eating it usually ends in disgust.
In addition, he mentions that you can feel pleasure with something, but other people around you may not be feeling pleasure. For instance, my parents like to talk about their favorite TV shows. It gives them pleasure. And that experience makes them happy. For me, I wouldn’t say it is suffering, but it isn’t something I want to discuss for over an hour.
One of the important takeaways I had is that well-being is at the center of happiness. Instead of looking for possessions, people, or jobs to be happy, look within. Our control over all those things on the outside is not constant. They do influence, but they are just conditions. The state of mind is what translates everything – good or bad.
Fighting negative emotions that are destructive to our inner well-being is important.
I found it funny he was talking about obsessing over an annoyance. While I was listening to the talk, I kept hearing this guy coughing. At first, it was just a background noise, but then I started to have to rewind the talk because I was listening to this guy coughing (and getting annoyed with it) as opposed to listening to Matthieu talk! All I could think of was why doesn’t this coughing guy leave the room? How rude!
His advice was to look inside instead of out. If you look at the thought of anger from within, it will start to diminish, and each time to look at it, the emotion will diminish even more. (I have to wonder if this guy was put there for this very example!)
Lastly, he says that it takes time to transform the way you perceive things or think. But, it can change! Meditation can help. I really believe that things like the Silva Mind System can help too. It helps you go within and look at things from a different view and develop an awareness that may not be there otherwise in many situations.
Did you watch the TED talk? Share any insights you took from it in the comments below!