Centuries before the arrival of social media and rolling news channels, people were still chasing happiness and still finding themselves miserable as a result. Seneca picks apart the issue, pre-empting 21st century psychological and sociological studies, and his words of wisdom have a lot to teach us about how to actually enjoy our lives.
Lucilius has been whining to Seneca – he’s unhappy in life, but is blaming circumstances, his upbringing and everyone else around him for how he’s feeling. Seneca isn’t impressed. The only person who can change how we respond to our lives is us… so how do we go about taking that responsibility effectively?
Drawing on Letter 44 (‘On Philosophy and Pedigrees’), this week’s episode digs into the perils of chasing fame and fortune, but also the very real hells we make for ourselves by trying to ‘find’ happiness and yet never quite feeling like we do.
What if we think of happiness as a disposition or an attitude? We can be miserable in the best of conditions, or happy in the worst, after all. Chasing happiness usually means chasing it the fuck away.
Part of the problem is that we so rarely pause to appreciate what we have. We finish a project or finally get past a roadblock, but if we immediately refocus on the next problem or goal, are we even giving ourselves time to enjoy those positive moments?
Andrea thinks having a team to help shoulder the burdens is key to feeling like things are going your way – but what can we do to face the world and pursue our dreams alone? Speaking of other people, how far is happiness a game of comparison? Jon’s not convinced, but Andrea tries to win him round to a different way of thinking.
What about being popular? It’s hard not to crave recognition and validation, but it can also seriously backfire on us if we come to depend on it. On the other hand, if we don’t get feedback from the world around us to calibrate our actions, we’ll never learn, grow, or maybe even feel that we have an impact on the world. It’s a delicate balance and we share our thoughts on how to navigate it skilfully and successfully.
There’s also time to wonder whether America is the worst place to be unhappy; we share the secret to escaping any maze; and Jon reveals his ultimate happiness fantasy.
- Having the tools isn’t the same as using them
- Remembering to appreciate the day (and sharing that with others)
- Staying sane on social media
- Why surfing is life
- Opiate addiction: why is unhappiness being treated as an illness?
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