I find Winston Churchill inexhaustibly fascinating, which is why I wrote a biography of him, so I was pleased—and surprised—to find, as an appendix to my Penguin Classics copy of Bram Stoker’s legendary novel, Dracula , the transcript of an interview Stoker did with Churchill in 1908. At that point, Stoker was trying to make it as a journalist, and the 34-year-old Churchill was British Under Secretary for the Colonies.
One of the striking things about Churchill is that he met the most astonishing range of people—everyone from Coco Chanel to Mark Twain to Greta Garbo to Billy Graham to Buffalo Bill. In Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill , I include a list of many of the people he met, and I wish I’d known to add Bram Stoker’s name. What a strange combo.
In the interview, I was also particularly interested to see Churchill giving his view on happiness.
Churchill observed to Stoker, “A man must choose his own way of life, and…it is only by following out one’s own bent that there can be the really harmonious life.” [This is EXACTLY what I mean by my First Commandment, to Be Gretchen ].
When Stoker asked what exactly he meant by that, Churchill continued, “Harmonious life. A life when a man’s work is also his pleasure and vice versa. That conjunction, joined with a buoyant temperament, makes the best of worldly gifts.”
“Why buoyant temperament? I merely ask for information.”
“Simply because it implies a lot of other things: good health and strength, for instance. The great majority of human beings have to work the greater part of the day, and then amuse themselves afterwards—if they are not too tired. But the lucky few derive their keenest interest and enjoyment not from any contrast between business and idle hours—but from the work itself. But certainly physical health has a good deal to do with it.”
Churchill is talking about something bigger than physical energy, but it’s true that having lots of energy helps boost happiness. Life just seems more manageable, and it’s easier to do the things—like exercise, make plans with other people, work on projects—that support happiness.
Studies show that you’re more likely to feel good about yourself when you feel energetic, and being considered an “energizer” makes you far more likely to win a positive work evaluation.
Harmonious life and a buoyant temperament—yes, that sounds like a good recipe for a happy life. It’s not easy to do much about your inborn temperament; we probably have a lot more influence over creating a harmonious life.
Ah, Churchill! Now I must go re-read some of my favorite bits of Their Finest Hour .
* The nice folks at Happier.com have officially launched. Lots of great tools and test there to measure, track, and improve your happiness.
* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email 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.