Happiness for People who can't stand Positive Thinking
by Oliver Burkeman
As you can probably tell from the dishevelled appearance of my book (thanks Jamie), I have given my copy of The Antidote to many, many friends of mine. And they all told me what an incredible read this has been.
It's deep and profound and critical, but despite all the serious topics it discusses - topics that are universally human and painful to look at - the writing actually makes you burst out laughing. Credit to Oliver Burkeman, an award winning feature writer for the Guardian.
So if you don’t need another shallow self-help monster that will make you roll your eyes (at best), then this one is for you.
The Antidote is an intelligent, fascinating and counterintuitive read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces you to rethink your attitudes toward failure, uncertainty and death.
Burkeman explores human psychology and our universal struggles to their core. And that it is our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure and unhappy.
He shows that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid.
Yes, this is the opposite to the mainstream “think yourself happy” advice, but as Burkeman illustrates, it turns out to have a long and distinguished philosophical lineage - ranging from ancient Stoic philosophy to Buddhism.
Each chapter is dedicated to a different, unconventional approach that Burkeman discovered for himself. If you decide to go on that journey with him and read The Antidote, you will find out why at times it is good for you to be more pessimistic, because expecting the worst may actually set you up for later success (chapter 2).
You will also realize why having SMART (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realisitic, Time-bounded) goals definitively isn't always smart (chapter 4).
A visit to the bizarre "Museum of Failure" will teach you to learn from your mistakes instead of pretending they never happened (chapter 7).
In chapter 8 you will find out why of all things facing your own death will actually help you live a more fulfilling life.
And if you haven't done so already, you will figure out that most of your problems are in your head, and hence why getting over your SELF may actually be the best thing you can do in order to be happy.
In The Antidote Burkeman explores the central psychological concepts and theories, he knows the relevant research, and most of all, he knows how to tell a story.
His writing is intelligent, refreshing and disarmingly honest, with a charming dose of cynicism. It made me bounce from serious contemplation to outright laughter in every chapter.
There are no ready-made opinions in this book telling you what you should and shouldn't do (indeed, Burkeman is well aware of the thin line between criticizing the typical self-help gurus and becoming one yourself). Instead, he offers a lot of thought-provoking material for you as a reader.
I constantly recommended this book to anyone not into "new-age" thinking or dull self-help, full of empty promises and quick solutions (let me tell you, there are none).
The Antidote digs deeper than that. It is also a great introduction to various philosophies and psychological approaches to what happiness is or could be, for anyone interested in taking a broader and deeper perspective on philosophy, psychology and the purpose of life.