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What is Happiness Essay

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    You’re born, and things start getting complicated from there.

    You’re suddenly on a wild-goose chase, bumping shoulders with not one person in particular, but rather seven billion; more or less. If you think that you’re not part of this race, then I have to tell you that you’re either on the wrong planet or that you already won.

    The pursuit of happiness has always been the holy grail of all societies. Whether it’s through wealth, development, or overall well-being, humans are constantly seeking what makes them happy. ‘Do what makes you happy’, ‘Be with whoever makes you happy’, ‘work in a field that makes you happy’; those are all common expressions we hear every day, and by applying them, we’re supposed to win the race.

    In an article titled ‘Stop Trying To Be Happy’, New-York best selling author and personal development consultant Mark Manson offers a new perspective on happiness and invites his readers to examine a unique outlook on what constitutes a joyful life. The piece features Manson’s unique style that had been know to adhere to many young readers, and from which stems his on growing acclaim. He tries to reframe the seemingly straightforward concept of happiness and present it as a sequence of interrelated and chained human experiences that one fulfills in the quest of being his unique, best self.

    The significance of Manson’s article lies in his distinguished interpretation of ordinary human behavior, as well as his reevaluation of certain misconceptions about contentment. In fact, through well-crafted prose, he invites his audience to examine their own lives and perhaps make some essential changes.

    Throughout ‘Stop Trying To Be Happy’, the author makes remarkable use of his own credibility as a personal development consultant and self-help expert, as he seeks to redefine the meaning of being happy. His clear articulation of sources, as well as his reflective reasoning, build up to a skillfully crafted argument that appeals to the audience’s sense of judgment, and tags on their emotional strings by being familiar enough, yet just as complex.

    In his article, Mark Manson sets the stage for the elucidation of happiness: its true meaning, how it to obtain it, and how to keep it. He delves into the difference between joy, pleasure, and positivity; and explains that people are on a hopeless, never-ending quest of trying to capture happiness as if it’s a prized possession. The author then established that the key to being happy is in the myriad of experiences a person goes through in trying to achieve his goals and aspirations in life, thus making the connection between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of fulfillment from being one’s best self.

    There’s much more to Manson than just being the author of this article; according to Forbes Magazine, he’s also an ‘accidental self-help entrepreneur’. The American personal development consultant wrote his first book in 2016 and sold over fifteen thousand copies; what’s more, his works were published in a multitude of highly regarded publications, such as Huffington Post and Business Insider (Schawbel). Therefore, his name quickly became notorious in the field of self-improvement psychology. This is where Manson’s reliance on ethos shines through in his article. In fact, because of the prevalence of his writings, the author doesn’t feel the need to establish who he is nor incorporate himself in the argument immediately. He instead relies on the connection he knows he has with his audience, addressing them directly in the opening sentence, and then multiple times throughout the article.

    Manson wisely opens his piece by stating his definition of happiness. He argues that it ‘is not something you obtain, but rather something you inhabit.’ His clever use of contradiction as he compares the emotion of anger with that of joy appeals to the readers’ logical interpretations of human behavior. It makes them rethink the core concept that’s under discussion. Another remarkable aspect of the writer’s prose is the fact that he not only relied on coherence and simplification, but he also made use of rhetorical devices that embellished his argument and enhanced its plausibility. Such a strategy is apparent in the heavy incorporation of Anaphora in the first paragraph, and most prominently, in the first sentence: ‘If you have to try to be cool, you will never be cool. If you have to try to be happy, then you will never be happy.’

    Manson doesn’t steer away from his usual style as he continues wielding his infamous colloquial diction and candid tone towards making stronger appeals to logos. He gradually begins to clear some of the confusion surrounding the meaning of happiness, notably how it’s always correlated with pleasure, or rather linked to it. He sheds light on familiar scenarios where temporary satisfaction caused misery and moroseness rather than content and joy. ‘Ask any drug addict how their pursuit of pleasure turned out. Ask an adulterer who shattered her family and lost her children whether pleasure ultimately made her happy.’ One could notice that the author isn’t attempting to truly ‘ask’ questions; he’s instead confident that his readers already know the answer; indeed, this isn’t but yet another proof of Manson’s effective argumentation.

    A journal article titled ‘Pleasure And Happiness’ by Wayne Davis testifies to Manson’s idea by asserting that pleasure is but a momentary and trivial pursuit, one that often ends with looming dissatisfaction and a ghost of unfulfillment. On the other hand, happiness is a long-lasting state, one that comes about naturally as we learn to embrace life as it is, instead of trying to control it, or rather squeeze all the ‘pleasure’ out it (308). Our author chose to emphasize those facts by bringing into play a pertinent metaphor that one could not help but pause at: ‘Pleasure is false God.’ By doing so, Manson uses an appeal to pathos as he compels the readers to abandon all of their false, pre-acquired definitions of happiness, and join the author’s side of the argument.

    If pleasure is not the door to the happiness realm, as Manson claims, then there has to be another answer. As it turns out, another popular belief is that by keeping expectations low, one avoids disappointment, and thus reaches content. Psychology researchers at University College London found that the larger the gap between aspiration and reality, the further out of reach is happiness (Sherman). But for all that, Mark Manson says: ‘Sorry, but no.’ Cue the refutal of another happiness illusion by the self-help author.

    In this part, Manson breaks away from the Logos loaded first part of his article and veers towards an emotionally charged composition, powered by a poignant anecdote. He invites his audience to relish in every experience they may have, and every failure they may face; for only then would they be able to know what true happiness is. As Manson put it, ‘[t]he joy of life is not having a $100,000 salary. It’s working to reach a $100,000 salary, and then working for a $200,000 salary, and so on.’ The reader is invited to embrace the fear, the apprehension, and ‘savor the inevitable failure’. Manson earnestly adjures: ‘raise your expectations. Elongate your process […] Learn from it. Live it. Let the ground crack and rocks crumble around you because that’s how something amazing grows, through the cracks.’ This very distinct shift in appeals, coupled with the evocative imagery, poetic diction, as well as the intentional parallelism, all speak to the readers’ sentiments, thus helping him grasp the argument’s significance in terms of how it would affect his philosophy of existence.

    In light of this, one can’t help but notice that the alteration of rhetorical strategies deployed by Manson is particularly useful in the overall development of his argument. He smoothly goes from rational reasoning to sentimental persuasion, attempting to carry his audience through the exploratory process of figuring out the true meaning of happiness.

    According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in propositional logic, ‘double negation’ refers to defining something by explaining what it’s not (Horn and Wansing). Manson continuously uses this tactic throughout his article by attesting that ‘happiness is not pleasure’, nor is it ‘lowering your expectation’, and finally, that it’s not ‘the same as positivity’. This last claim seems the most challenging to understand, as positivity is thought to be an omnipresent trait in happy individuals. However, a 2017 study by Harvard psychologist Susan David suggests otherwise and backs up Manson’s argument. It was found that the main reason blocking out negative thoughts doesn’t entail happiness, is because one can’t grow as a person while neglecting the constant need for betterment and improvement (Semani). There’s nothing more detrimental to human life than ignorance and stagnation. As critical as this realization may seem to some readers, Manson still manages to simplify it with cautious use of irony and humorous diction, ‘A value of mine is to pursue non-violence. Therefore, when I get mad at somebody, I express that anger, but I also make a point to not punch them in the face. Radical idea, I know.’ Here, Mark Manson again capitalizes on the style that he’s most renowned for: his relaxed and informal writing bridges the gap between him and his -mostly young- audience just as he gets closer to the argument’s climax.

    In the final paragraph of the article, Manson greets his readers with a behavioral dilemma that invites them to synthesize all that they’ve read so far to come up with a final deduction. Hypophora fuels simple questions, such as: ‘(why does) completing a marathon (make) us happier than eating a chocolate cake(?)’, in other words, why is it that the most ‘unpleasant’ activities seem to induce the greatest feelings of pride and fulfillment, no matter the outcome? Manson immediately offers an answer: ‘because it’s these sorts of activities that allow us to become our ideal selves’. We have now come to the final act, and the author’s audience is ready to hear the final verdict. How can they achieve happiness? The ending lines of the articles, bold with imagery induced vitality and fervent diction, solicit the readers to be their ‘ideal’ selves, to seek what speaks to them, and to live every day like it’s their last, savoring every failure, and every success. The curtains close with one potent sentence that resonates with the reader long after he looks away from Manson’s words: ‘Stop trying to be happy and just be.’

    Overall, Mark Manson’s ‘Stop Trying To Be Happy’ is a skillfully crafted piece of work that goes beyond redefining happiness and theorizing about the key of procuring it, to aptly breaking down common misconceptions surrounding it. It not only compels us to rethink our conception of content, but rather forces us to reexamine the way we lead our lives. And in this, Manson propels us to seek what gives meaning to our existence as individuals, to realize that true happiness already exists within every one of us, buried under illusions of perfection and supremacy.

    The text is an example of a constructively eloquent argument. By first capitalizing on his pre-established eminence in the field, Manson establishes a trustful, yet good-humored connection with his readers without making himself appear superior. This paves the way for him to effectively argue with both emotion and conviction later on in the essay; as he alters between deductive reasoning and passionate declamation, making strong points in the process.

    In doing so, Manson leads us to the inference that happiness is not an end-destination that, once reached, becomes a boundless utopia. There is no mystical permanent plateau after which no purpose in life is needed. Though each achievement, acquiring one’s values is an end in itself and does rightly result in happiness; as it is simultaneously a stepping stone to higher achievement. One does realize a permanent state of happiness when one realizes that life, in order to remain Life, does so only as long as it advances. The fullest, most purposeful use of the mind toward one’s highest goals results in this state; that’s the key to winning the race.

    Works Cited

    1. Davis, Wayne. “Pleasure and Happiness.” Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, vol. 39, no. 3, 1981, pp. 305–317. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4319458. Accessed 09 Feb. 2020.
    2. Horn, Laurence R., and Heinrich Wansing. “Negation.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford University, 7 Jan. 2015, plato.stanford.edu/entries/negation/.
    3. Manson, Mark. “Stop Trying To Be Happy.” Mark Manson, 27 Dec. 2019, markmanson.net/stop-trying-to-be-happy.
    4. Schawbel, Dan. “Mark Manson: The Accidental Self-Help Entrepreneur.” Forbes, 4 Aug. 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2014/08/04/mark-manson-the-accidental-self-help-entrepreneur/#2435f4ac74ef.
    5. Semnani, Neda. “A Harvard Psychologist Explains Why Forcing Positive Thinking Won’t Make You Happy.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 23 Sept. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/09/23/forcing-positive-thinking-wont-make-you-happy-says-this-harvard-psychologist/.
    6. Sherman, Jeremy. “The Secret to Happiness and Compassion: Low Expectations.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Aug. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ambigamy/201408/the-secret-happiness-and-compassion-low-expectations.

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