Chapter 2. What Makes People Happy, Really?

Happiness is essentially a state of going some—where, wholeheartedly, one—directionally, without regret or reservation.

William H. Sheldon

Happiness. What is it, really?

People talk a lot about happiness. Countless books have been written, hours and hours of thinking by great philosophers, and reams of poetry and prose have been dedicated to examining what will make human beings happy. Daytime talk shows go over the countless aspects of whether people are happy and, if not, why not? The plots of films and television shows revolve around the pursuit of love, money, power, and relationships with one root motivation— if the characters achieve their goals, they will somehow be happier and more complete. The advertising industry tries to convince us that the next house, a better car, or a different product will somehow make us happier. Even the constitution of the United States, the governing document of the most powerful and progressive society in the world, enshrines the "pursuit of happiness" as a core principle for its citizens.

You would think that with such a preoccupation with happiness throughout human history, with the aim of increasing happiness at the core of many of our leisure, professional, and political activities, that people would be . . . well . . . happier. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Most, if not all, of the people I coach through the A.I.M. process are not happy at the beginning. These are generally professional ...

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