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Living by principles and rules makes you happier

Summary

18 November 2012

Earlier today, I gave my seventh "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester. I have been thinking about how people can be happier.

Thought for the week

Everybody wants to be happy. The Government has even talked about an index of “Gross National Happiness.”

Sadly, many people are not happy.

Sometimes this is caused by personal tragedies such as bereavement, severe ill health, or severe financial problems. However we all know people who are healthy and financially comfortable but just not happy.

Having been happy most of my life, including now, I was recently thinking about why some people are happy and some are not.

I remember a dinner conversation I had with someone about 20 years ago. Let me call him “Fred” to avoid embarrassing anyone.

Fred was a rich businessman, but was divorced. We were talking about my wife and children. Fred made it clear that he would really like to be as happily married as I was. However he also wanted to be able to continue a relationship with his girlfriends. What Fred just didn’t get was that you can have a happy marriage or you can have lots of girlfriends, but you cannot have both. You have to choose which you want.

I have decided that you are much likelier to be happy if you have some strong principles and rules that you live by. For example:

Rules like this make it much easier to take decisions.

Instead of wondering whether you can get away with stealing some money that is lying around the office, you don’t even think about it, because you are a person who would never steal under any circumstances.

Rules for living stop you from doing things that are dangerous, harmful or just plain silly.

Many of us get our rules for living from a religion. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all contain very clear rules for how you should behave and how you should treat other people.

However people who don’t believe in God can also have strong ethical rules that govern their lives.

It doesn’t matter where your rules come from, as long as they guide your life and help to make you happy.

 

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