Numerous social psychological studies have confirmed Aristotle's observation that "We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage." If we are dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, one of the best approaches is to act more like the person we want to be, rather than sitting around analyzing ourselves.History prof Darrin M. McMahon has a similiar message:
"Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so," [John Stuart] Mill concluded after recovering from a serious bout of depression. Rather than resign himself to gloom, however, Mill vowed instead to look for happiness in another way.It's true we say "Happy New Year" and therefore seem to focus on happiness, but we also have the practice of making resolutions, so perhaps we have already incorporated the message that the route to happiness is simply to do the kinds of things that will make us better human beings. Maybe we just need to change the saying. Instead of "Happy New Year": "Virtuous New Year!"
"Those only are happy," he came to believe, "who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way." For our own culture, steeped as it is in the relentless pursuit of personal pleasure and endless cheer, that message is worth heeding.