The Atlantic Daily: The Real Secret to Satisfaction

True satisfaction requires letting go, Arthur C. Brooks writes in our magazine cover story.

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True satisfaction requires letting go, Arthur C. Brooks writes in our magazine cover story.

The Rolling Stones were onto something: Humans, by nature, struggle to find satisfaction, Arthur C. Brooks reports in a new feature for our magazine. But by reframing our desires, one can avoid the trap of always wanting more.

“The secret to satisfaction is not to increase our haves—that will never work (or at least, it will never last),” Arthur explains. “The secret is to manage our wants. By managing what we want instead of what we have, we give ourselves a chance to lead more satisfied lives.”

Here is Arthur’s practical advice for “how to beat the dissatisfaction curse.”

1. Go from prince to sage.

Take a cue from Thomas Aquinas or the Buddha, and focus on sharing the knowledge you’ve accumulated with others.

2. Make a reverse bucket list.

Once a year, Arthur makes two lists. First, he writes down his wants and attachments (like more money or power). Then, he envisions a happy life five years from now, and writes down the forces that could help him achieve it (like family and faith). Finally, he writes, “I confront the bucket list” and “go back to the list of things that will bring me real happiness. I commit to pursuing these things.”

3. Get smaller.

“We can, in fact, find immense fullness when we pay attention to smaller and smaller things,” Arthur observes. That might be as simple as giving everyday activities, such as washing the dishes, your full attention.

To learn more, read the entire essay.

Want to explore more about the science of happiness? Join Arthur C. Brooks and other experts May 1–3 for our In Pursuit of Happiness event.

The news in three sentences:

(1) Senator Mitch McConnell denounced the Republican National Committee’s censure of Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and described the January 6 attack as “a violent insurrection.”

(2) Minneapolis police say they have made an arrest in connection with the homicide investigation that led to the death of Amir Locke, who was shot and killed last week by officers executing a no-knock warrant.

(3) Oscar nominations are out—more on that below.

What to read if … you’re itching to argue about this year’s Oscar picks:

Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, which earned the most nominations, stages a biblical clash between old and new visions of the American West—and also has a queer problem.

Let’s revisit what our critic David Sims thought about that, and  the rest of the best picture nominees:

What to watch if … you don’t care about prestige cinema:

“If you’re looking for a nice, empty-brained evening at the movies, Moonfall is the ticket to buy right now,” David Sims writes.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Explore the American South through literature. The writer and professor Imani Perry shares eight books to help you better understand the region. (For more from Imani, sign up for her newsletter, Unsettled Territory.)

A break from the news:

These animals are feasting on the ruins of an extinct world.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.