When it comes to happiness, the Ancient Chinese had it all figured out.
At least, this is the argument made by Harvard Professor Michael Puett and author Christine Gross-Loh, co-authors of the excellent new book, The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, which outlines the ways in which Chinese philosophy can provide us with the tools we need to become happier, more fulfilled people. Studying Confucius, Mencius, and Lao Zi can provide helpful, and often counterintuitive, pieces of advice.
While we’re often told that happiness means “being true to ourselves,” Puett and Gross-Loh (and the ancient Chinese) argue that this is actually an unhelpful way of thinking. Often, we don’t realize that our “true selves” are just a compilation of learned behaviors and routines, and that we quickly fall into ruts. As a result, the way to be happy is to overcome the self. Puett advises us to practice breaking our normal ways of thinking and to see ourselves as highly malleable, adaptable beings. Making big changes in our life comes from changing our smallest day-to-day behaviors.
Professor Puett’s course at Harvard on Chinese philosophy has quickly become the third most popular class among undergraduates. Learn why by checking out his insights below!