For a long time, I’ve been meaning to write a Happiness Manifesto—a short statement that sums up what I think are the most important principles about happiness.
I love other manifestos I’ve seen. One of my favorites is Bob Sutton’s “Fifteen Things I Believe,” on his fantastic Work Matters blog:
1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all—first do no harm!
2. Indifference is as important as passion.
3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can’t have both at the same time.
4. Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.
5. Learn how to fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong: It helps you develop strong opinions that are weakly held.
6. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.
7. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.
8. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.
9. The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.
10. The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?
11. The best people and organizations have the attitude of wisdom: The courage to act on what they know right now and the humility to change course when they find better evidence.
12. The quest for management magic and breakthrough ideas is overrated; being a master of the obvious is underrated.
13. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
14. It is good to ask yourself, do I have enough? Do you really need more money, power, prestige, or stuff?
15. Jim Maloney is right: Work is an overrated activity.
Another interesting variation on a manifesto is on Madame X’s My Open Wallet . On this blog, where an anonymous New Yorker “tells the world how much she saves, earns, and spends,” she lists “My Rules” in the right-hand column. Here are the first four of her 19 rules:
Rule 1. Credit card use
-Use a credit card for every expense you can possibly charge.
-Use a card that gives you frequent flyer miles or some other benefit that you’ll actually take advantage of.
-Only charge as much as you can pay off in full every month—don’t carry a balance.
Rule 2. Online access
-Use online access for all your banking, investment and credit card accounts
Rule 3. Found money
-If you find money on the street, don’t be ashamed to pick it up!
Rule 4. Shopping
1. Communicate who you are in all you do.
2. Style is multidimensional.
3. Style matters.
4. Authenticity is energizing, economical, and efficient.
5. Accentuate the positive.
6. People are like snowflakes—uniquely beautiful because of the details.
7. Pay attention to what attracts you.
8. Working from the outside in can create deep transformation.
9. Feel free to change.
10. True style is not dependent on wealth, and wealth does not necessarily create taste.
11. Cheap is expensive in the long run.
12. Use your best every day.
13. Choose from your heart, and your life will fill up with things you love.
14. Beauty transforms.
15. It’s always a good time to be yourself.
16. Only love is free—everything else costs.
17. Creativity + restraint = beauty.
18.Contrast makes things interesting.
19. Living is sensual.
20. Make more choices—moment to moment, day to day.
One reason I love manifestos is that it’s fun to decide where I disagree (for example, in the Style Manifesto, I disagree with no. 1!) or where I see an idea of my own, expressed differently (this manifesto’s no. 12 is related to my own Seventh Commandment, Spend Out , and its no. 7 is related to one of my Secrets of Adulthood , “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.)
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on my own manifesto. I don’t think I have it quite right, but it’s getting there. What important ideas have I left out? Could anything be phrased more felicitously? I welcome any suggestions. Also, I’d love to read other manifestos. Please post links to any good ones.
Here is my Happiness Manifesto:
• To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, and an atmosphere of growth.
• One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself .
• The days are long, but the years are short.
• You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
• Your body matters.
• Happiness is other people.
• Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
• “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”—G.K. Chesterton
• What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
• Best is good, better is best.
• Outer order contributes to inner calm.
• Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
• You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
• You manage what you measure.
• “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”—Robert Louis Stevenson
*Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.