Monday, November 17, 2014

Hector and the Search for Happiness, Francois Lelord

I just finished Hector and the Search for Happiness and I'm seeing its messages everywhere. Maybe that's because happiness is a universal message, but I'm always attuned to happiness-related information. 

Many books focus on the more mundane science of happiness. While I appreciate the facts and research behind finding lasting joy, I really enjoy learning through interesting stories. Hector's story is realistic enough and so spot on when it comes to observations about human beings. 

Hector is a French psychiatrist who sets out to see what makes people happy. He seeks wisdom beyond his studies and work experiences. He travels to Asia, Africa and North America and shares his observations along the way. Below are Hector's lessons learned while accidentally falling for a prostitute, befriending a drug trafficker, hiking with a monk and trotting across the globe. 

Lesson no. 1:
Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.

Lesson no. 2:
Happiness often comes when least expected. 

Lesson no. 3:
Many people see happiness only in their future.

Lesson no. 4:
Many people think that happiness comes from having more power or more money.

Lesson no. 5:
Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.

Lesson no. 6:
Happiness is a long walk in beautiful, unfamiliar mountains.

Lesson no. 7:
It's a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.

Lesson no. 8:
Unhappiness is being separated from the people you love.

Lesson no. 9:
Happiness is knowing your family lacks for nothing.

Lesson no. 10:
Happiness is doing a job you love.

Lesson no. 11:
Happiness is having a home and a garden of your own.

Lesson no. 12:
It's harder to be happy in a country run by bad people.

Lesson no. 13:
Happiness is feeling useful to others.

Lesson no. 14:
Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are.

Observation: People are kinder to a child who smiles (very important)

Lesson no. 15:
Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.

Lesson no. 16:
Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.

Lesson no. 17:
Happiness is caring about the happiness of those you love. 

Lesson no. 18:
Happiness could be the freedom to love more than one woman at the same time. 

Lesson no. 19:
The sun and the sea make everybody happy.

Lesson no.22:
Women care more than men about making others happy.

Lesson no. 23:
Happiness means making sure that those around you are happy.

Some of these lessons are popular among Western civilization already, while others are controversial (but perhaps true) like numbers 18 and 22. What's your take?

At one point Hector meets with an American expert on happiness studies. This professor explains that there's a big debate among people who study happiness: "There [are] those who [think] that you are happy above all because your life [is] full of positive things or events, like in Hector's list. Other professors disagree: they [think] that happiness [depends] above all on your way of looking at things, on that idea of the glass being half full or half empty." 

The professor goes on to say that he thinks both ideas are correct. The answer to happiness is a mix of nature and nurture. "Whichever way, the parents are to blame!" he jokes.


P.S. Check out this NY Times article, which relates to Hector's Lesson no. 1, and happens to be very funny. (Thank you Julia for sharing!)

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