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Chapter 6: The formula of humanity

Self-improvement is not a cultivation of greater happiness, but rather, the cultivation of greater self-respect.

Humans grow up by changing their values, causing them to see relationships, self-worth, and motivation differently.

As children, we value what gives us pleasure and helps us to avoid pain. In the adolescent approach to life, everything is a trade-off. We are ready to tolerate negative experiences if they bring us to a pleasurable end. This is, for example, the common adolescent thinking of, “...if I wear this, listen to this music, do this, people will like me.” Their lives are all about maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

As adults, we realize that the most important things in life can’t be achieved through bargaining. They are non-transactional. If you try to bargain for them, you destroy them (love, trust, respect, happiness).

Hope is fundamentally transactional. It is a bargain between your current actions and some imagined, pleasant future. Adults do what is right because it’s right, not because it’s pleasurable or helps to avoid pain. To take a step towards adulthood requires courage to abandon hope, to act unconditionally, and to let go of the desire for things to be better or more pleasant and fun.

The maturity of our culture is deteriorating. We are living through a crisis of character and virtue. To change the world positively is only possible if each individual achieves maturation and dignity in the present.

Actions to take