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Aspen Ideas Festival: Strategies for happiness in life

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Arthur Brooks talking about happiness at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Arthur Brooks talking about happiness at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Leigh Vogel | The Aspen Institute

Arthur Brooks is a classical musician and a behavioral economist. He ties together philosophy, art, music, social science and neuroscience to suggest ways you can find happiness and success in every stage of life.

He told an Aspen Ideas Festival audience he'd give their money back if they aren't happier at the end of this talk.  Brooks said "everything that I know is a blend of science and art. Truth and beauty cannot be disentangled."

His strategies for happiness in life included recognizing "the burden of high achievement. What goes up must come down." And successful people, Brooks says, have the greatest sense of regret about things undone.

J.S. Bach was an innovator in his early music career, but he achieved even more when he became a teacher of others. Early in your life you have "fluid intelligence," but later in your life you have more than just brains, you have wisdom, judgment and perspective."

Arthur Brooks suggests capitalizing on this by becoming a teacher. "What are you doing to share your wisdom in whatever you know? How are you becoming a teacher today?"

Brooks' additional strategy for finding happiness in the second part of your life is to "take away the parts of your life that aren't really you. Stop doing the things that aren't truly you."

"To be happy, take away the the outward markers of your success and prestige. Take away the detractors. Take away the worries, and the unproductive relationships."

Early in your life, Brooks says, you "add and build and enjoy your life. Then you should subtract, to find your best and truest self."

The most fundamental basis of a happy life is to "foster the roots of the love in your life. Be sure to build that root system," he says.

Arthur Brooks is a behavioral economist, a columnist for the New York Times, a best-selling author, and the president of the American Enterprise Institute. He spoke June 29, 2018, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.