What Is Happiness?

Hector has always done things the right way. He is young, accomplished, and willing to do his best for his patients. The world is indeed his oyster.

And yet, he feels like a failure. His patients–an urban, educated, and seemingly privileged class of people–are persistently unhappy, and despite his excellent training and sympathetic ear, Hector doesn’t know how to truly help them. This, and his uncertain relationship with his long-time girlfriend Clara (herself a little too devoted to her job), makes Hector feel increasingly drained and dissatisfied by his own life, even when he is happy about the very sick patients he can help.

In Hector and the Search for Happiness, Hector’s journey produces a list of 23 lessons in happiness learned along the way. As you follow Hector around the globe, you’ll see that few of the lessons he learns have much to do with what we traditionally consider to be “achievement.”

How do you find happiness? How has your definition of happiness changed over time? Have you been able to balance your goals, responsibilities, and personal well-being?

Happy Places

Hector’s search for happiness takes him from Paris to China to Africa to the United States. He travels many thousands of miles to find people and places that make him feel contentment. In our own lives we cannot often cross oceans or visit other continents, but we can identify and cherish those locations that bring us closer to our warmest feelings.

Do you have a special place you go to feel your best? Is it a breathtaking place in nature? The scene of an important life event? A quiet room in your home?

Learning From Fiction

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a delightful tale of one young man’s far-flung quest to find the secrets of happiness. Any reader would pick up this story and see parts of him or herself in Hector and the questions he takes on. Is success in my career equivalent to success in my life? Do I slow down often enough to appreciate all that is around me? Are my choices in life about my own fulfillment, or meeting the expectations of others (and are these compatible goals)?

So while Hector is entertaining in and of itself—millions worldwide have been captured by its wit, charm, and refreshingly optimistic take on the human condition—it is also a kind of reference guide. We don’t all possess doctoral degrees or the means to travel the world in search of the answers to our problems, but fiction does present a unique opportunity to approximate these experiences and their unwinding as part of an entertainment experience that is unique in its intimacy and intellectual comprehensiveness.

Do you find yourself “learning” from fiction? We can pick up facts and figures anywhere, but do you ever find yourself changed by the stories you read?

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