Paul Bloom’s The Sweet Spot is about how we derive meaning from suffering. He argues for a balance (hence the title) where we suffer enough to feel good but not so much to feel defeated. Here are the three big ideas he explores and a riff on applying each:
Certain types of chosen suffering (including those that involve pain, fear, and sadness) can be sources of pleasure.
It’s an effort to write these posts and share them every day. But when I want to look up a note and remember it alongside a fully formed thought – I’m reminded it’s one of the best things I do for myself.
A life well-lived is more than a life of pleasure. It involves, among other things, moral goodness and meaningful pursuits.
All pleasure and no pain makes Jack a dull boy. It also makes Jack not exist off of Instagram. There is no perfectly peaceful life, so we have to seek the right resistances to battle. Self-help gurus, we see you. You probably spill wine on your bathroom rug after a rough Wednesday night too.
Some forms of suffering, involving struggle and difficulty, are essential parts in achieving these higher goals, and for living a complete and fulfilling life.
The sweet spot is in here somewhere. But it takes work and focus to find out. Life hands out lemons. Sometimes we make lemonade, sometimes we throw them back, other times we just lay under a massive pile of citrus and think, “at least it’s lemony-fresh.”
I really loved this book. It’s full of tough habits to grow on. It’s also a 360-degree review of the research and logic behind the happiness literature. Expect a lot of nuance if you dive in, but also expect to attack finding your own sweet spot for happiness with a new, lemony zeal.