Will Bowen is the the founder of the nonprofit organization A Complaint Free World. His latest title is Happy This Year! The Secret to Getting Happy Once and for All.
There have been an increasing number of books about happiness coming out over the last few years—why do you think that is? What interests you personally about happiness?
Clearly people are searching for happiness like never before and, in my opinion, it is a fulfillment of [Abraham] Maslow’s theory about human beings’ hierarchy of needs [physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualization]. We now live in the wealthiest and healthiest time in history, and for those who are fortunate enough to live in the world’s most affluent and healthy societies, the next step is self-actualization, which includes being happy. What I find interesting about happiness is that while people are searching for it externally, happiness resides quietly within, waiting like a diamond mine to be discovered and harvested.
What is the one thing you would recommend to people who want to be happier? Is there anything (an attitude, a behavior) that you see routinely limiting people’s happiness?
Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” and yet few people realize that happiness is, indeed, a choice. I have interviewed a great many happy people, and, without exception, they describe themselves as being happy. This may sound trite, but it is an extremely powerful concept: decide that you are a happy person, describe yourself as being happy, and you will be happy.
Many psychologists prefer the term subjective well-being over happiness. Because happiness is subjective to the individual, it is important to decide just how happy we want to be. Setting a weekly happiness goal on a scale from one to ten, then measuring our progress several times a day, reminds us to choose a happier state of mind.
How does the experience of narrating an audiobook compare with the kind of public speaking you usually do? Did you prepare for narrating differently?
I read approximately 20 books a year and, typically, 17 or more are audiobooks. I have always loved audiobooks, and one of my greatest thrills was to be asked to narrate Happy This Year! I’ve spoken to audiences of several thousand people, and it is exciting to feel their energy. However, when I narrate an audiobook, I am developing an intimate relationship with the reader. As I narrate, I visualize people listening and work to assure that my voice conveys the content with passion and in an interesting and entertaining manner.