Dr. Daniel Gilbert in his book The Pursuit of Happiness, talks about hot and cold states. Our lives are made up of hot and cold states. What that means is that we are either down, on the way down, we are up or we are are going up. Our entire life is made up of being in one state and moving into another. Happiness and success are states. We are unhappy for a time and then happy for a time. We spend a lot of time and energy predicting what will make us happy and successful, but Dr. Gilbert believes are ability and perception of the future are much to be desired.

When you are excited and happy you cannot imagine a time when what you have is gone and life is different. We can’t feel forward. Feel to a time when someone we love is no longer there, or likewise, imagine people in our lives who we haven’t met yet, but are bound to meet because of the path that we’re on. We cannot imagine our future and these hot and cold states often misinform us and stop us from doing good things today, and so a bright future eludes us, and we become our worst prognosticator. 

We can’t do anything about hot and cold states. We will be up and we will be down, but what we can do is not to make decisions in those states that will fail us in the future. And so you should join a nunnery or a monastery when the love of your life leaves you with a circus magician. You shouldn’t plan a world tour when a generous, but small number of souls have taken a liking to your music.

You shouldn’t quit this or that, or start this or the other thinking and feeling your way into a future that will never come. Instead the best guide and most reliable source to pursue happiness are the people around you.

Isn’t it sad that there is so much wisdom buried in retirement and old age homes, while the young people languish for knowledge and thirst for purpose? We need to do something about that. Connect people in two different states of their lives so that both may benefit from it. The old because they will know it meant something, and the young because they will know what to do next.

If you want success or happiness, you cannot will it or feel it forward, but have to find someone who has what you want. You need to buy them dinner and pick their brain. Pick their brain for a month and learn all you can from them over the years. The secrets to the mystery of being happy lies in the experience of everyone else but ourselves, yet we make it our duty to be shy, to mind our business, and to timidly decline reaching out.

You don’t have to reach out to everyone, but you have to reach out to someone. You don’t have to keep the company of anyone, but you do need to be a friend to someone. 

You can never change the way we are, or ignore the hot and cold states that make up our lives. You can only learn from Dr. Gilbert and pursue being happy by connecting and following advice from those who have been there, and when you get there one day, you must remain open, to pay it forward, and to make sure those coming behind you can find joy and happiness too.


Cover photo generously provided by photographer Thomas Bjornstad.