Amy Huang’s first principles

What makes people happy is not a great mystery, and it is not hard to guess what generally matters to any individual person. Yet, it is the undertaking of a lifetime to pursue those things without distraction or loss of courage.

I made this document as a commitment to myself. It’s one thing to idly think about what you believe and matters to you, and another to say it out loud and stick to what you said. 

These points are ordered from most to least important to me.

  1. Being happy is the ultimate goal of living. To me, that doesn’t simply mean the absence of pain or suffering, or perpetual contentment. It means being free to take on meaningful challenges, while still being able to experience the greatest joys in life.
  2. The foundation of happiness is well-being of the self, mentally and physically. I hope to be physically healthy for as long as possible, and even in old age, keep my body feeling good through exercise and a nutritious diet. My mind I hope to keep sharp and alert for even longer.
  3. There are few true misanthropes in society; most people must bond with other people to be happy. I vow to be close with my parents and my brother, and support them throughout their lives. I want to cultivate deep friendships and romantic relationships, and know and be known simply. I’d like to raise children who live happy lives. I’ll do my best to connect with acquaintences and strangers in the communities I find myself drawn into.
  4. The most fulfilling thing non-misanthropes can do with their lives is to help other people. If their immediate loved ones don’t need much taking care of, then they should look beyond the circle of people they personally know. I hope to work endlessly on my answer to this question, and accomplish visible, measurable, significant, and permanent progress towards making other people’s lives better. Even when it is confusing or demotivating, I hope I have the strength to keep going.
  5. While no one is obligated to help other people, everyone is morally obligated to minimize the suffering they cause to other people. I can’t explain why it matters to me that other people do not suffer, or why I feel that it’s my duty to help lessen their suffering, but it is important to me that I never stop striving to do so. I hope that when I mess up, I have the dignity to own up to it fully and do better from then on.
  6. Everyone should reach to be the best they can be without sacrificing their core needs. Maybe there is a theoretical limit to how perfect a person can be, but seeing as I’ll never get close to it in my lifetime, I think of self-improvement as an infinite process.
  7. The ideal stasis is working towards concrete goals to realize these personal values while also enjoying the material comforts of a secure livelihood throughout one’s days. When I die, I want to have no regrets except for the what-ifs of having taken worthwhile risks that did not pan out.