#226 ‒ The science of happiness | Arthur Brooks, Ph.D.


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Arthur Brooks is a social scientist, professor at Harvard University, a columnist for The Atlantic, and the bestselling author of From Strength to Strength. In this episode, Arthur explains how intelligence changes as we get older, and how to take advantage of this to maximize our happiness and success. He distills truths about the meaning of happiness and its three main components: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. He goes into detail about many of the keys to a happy life, including the importance of cultivating virtuous relationships. On the flip side, Arthur warns of the dangers of social comparison, “success addition,” and the four worldly idols—money, fame, power, and pleasure—that drive many of us. Additionally, Arthur provides examples of exercises that can guide one in the right direction, overcome fear, and cultivate habits that can lead to a happier life.

We discuss:

  • Insights from Arthur’s career as a professional French horn player [2:15];
  • A radical shift away from music to a Ph.D. in quantitative policy [12:00];
  • Personal experience with shifting intelligence: fluid vs. crystallized intelligence [16:45];
  • An epiphany from a chance encounter on an airplane that shaped Arthur’s thinking [22:00];
  • The three main “macronutrients” of happiness [25:00];
  • Exploring the “purpose” component of happiness [29:00];
  • The importance of having a partner and true friendships [32:00];
  • The makeup of a true friendship, and why men tend to struggle with making real friends [36:45];
  • The “satisfaction” component of happiness and the importance of “wants management” [42:15];
  • The tyranny of social comparison [47:45];
  • Insights into happiness through Chinese art, and the concept of a “reverse bucket list” [51:45];
  • An exercise demonstrating the importance of relationships with others and the need to work on them [55:30];
  • The four main idols that drive us: money, fame, power, and pleasure [1:01:15];
  • Success addiction, workaholism, and their detriment to happiness [1:04:00];
  • A radical approach to overcome fear—the antithesis to love and happiness [1:14:00];
  • Ancient Hindu advice for the perfect life [1:26:30];
  • The end result of getting caught in the 4 idols [1:31:45];
  • The complexity of happiness [1:33:30]; and
  • More.

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