A Lesson from “Fight Club”

“Fight Club,” a movie released in 1999 starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, was pretty violent, filled with hopelessness, and contained lots of expressions of anger. Even the setting is kind of depressing: the protagonist has major issues with insomnia that lead him to join a club where members pummel each other as a form of therapy. While the movie is not exactly a great example of a science-backed path to happiness, the “first rule” of Fight Club (“Don’t talk about fight club.”) gives us a valuable lesson for living a life of engagement and meaning.

The first rule of happiness might be, “Don’t talk about happiness.” Too often, our obsession with our feelings and current state of mind can actually backfire on us. It puts too much pressure on you to create long-lasting happiness, immediately. The focus, instead, should be on building lifelong well being. If you’re not fully engaged, experiencing  an extended period of unhappiness in your life, or just looking for a way to boost your happiness, consider looking at improving your life in a different way.


  • Find your purpose: Consider people you admire. What is their purpose? Think about an adversity that has affected you,deeply. Is there an opportunity to learn from this to guide your life?
  • Engage your strengths: Identify your top strengths and find ways to use them to serve your purpose.
  • Exercise your curiosity: Take a new view of your life where you consider being more mindful not just about the things that peak your curiosity readily, but some of the more mundane things that you come across, regularly.
  • Set some meaningful goals: Goals are a powerful motivational force that, when combined with the previous items (purpose, strengths, & curiosity) can create high levels of engagement. They also set the stage for doing great things.

Or, just do what noted author and researcher, Todd Kashdan, says we should do: “Be aware. Be open. And, do what matters.”

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