Most of what causes our unhappiness is the attention we give to unimportant problems. The mistake of a lot of self-help books is that it tries to convince us we can overcome or avoid problems completely. Manson retells the story of the Buddha’s revelation that both riches and poverty can be sources of unhappiness and one’s problems. One of the most important points of the book is that in order to even be happy sometimes we have to be sad or angry or miserable and face rejection. In other words, happiness comes from solving our problems, not avoiding them. Since having some problems in our life is inevitable we should give our attention to better problems.
We need to decide what problems are worth our time and effort. Rejection and failure are a necessary component of solving problems. Suppose your problem is you want to develop confidence to ask out more women or men. Well, why do most people find this to be a problem? They may say they’re shy or don’t know where to begin. The real issue is that they’re afraid of rejection and failure. But why are they afraid of rejection? Many of these people will take it as a message that they aren’t good enough as people.
People have different ideas of what constitutes a problem and success in the first place based on their metrics and values. Our values form our metrics: how we judge our success and failures. Some people might feel successful if they achieve a good family life at home, while others might feel successful only if they’ve made millions of dollars and own a yacht. These two different definitions of success reflect different values and thus different metrics of valuing what is successful. In order to select better problems and come to realize what really matters we have to recognize what we really value and if it turns out our values are bad and harmful, we should try to realign them with new values that are better. Only then can we choose better problems for ourselves.