Book Freak 143: How to Build the Life You Want

Research-backed strategies for becoming happier

Get Build the Life You Want

Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, by Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey, offers research-backed strategies for becoming happier by improving relationships, finding purposeful work, and developing spiritually.

A major theme is that happiness comes from within. You can’t just wait for external circumstances to change. The book emphasizes emotional “self-management”—controlling your reactions, choosing better emotions like gratitude and hope, and focusing outside yourself.

Key lessons from the book:

  • Seek out friends who are “useless” to you — people you enjoy spending time with for no reason other than their company. These real friendships bring the deepest satisfaction.
  • Contemplate your mortality to boost gratitude. Thinking about death makes people value life and its blessings more.
  • Turn off notifications and switch your devices to grayscale to reduce digital distraction and increase mindfulness.
  • When you argue with your spouse or partner, use “we” language instead of “me/you” language. It reduces defensiveness and strengthens teamwork.
  • Schedule leisure activities just as you would work obligations. If you leave time open, it often gets filled with work instead of self-care.
  • Remove extra mirrors from your home to avoid excessive self-focus. Seeing your reflection frequently reinforces unhelpful self-consciousness.
  • If you envy someone, focus on the ordinary parts of their life rather than the things they have that you lack. This diminishes malicious envy.
  • Admit when you’re wrong quickly and openly. Contrary to expectations, it doesn’t undermine credibility but builds trust.

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