Let me give you some advice, kiddo

A funny-looking cartoon alien with tentacles and one big eye, sitting on a grey rock

So you’re going to go and be a human on Planet Earth, hey? Well, good for you. Have you started practising yet?

Well of course you have to practise. Good grief, were you planning to just waltz straight in?

What d’you mean, “Practise what?” Isn’t it obvious? You have to practise being happy. That’s the whole point of being a human, after all. And it doesn’t just happen by itself – you have to practise.

Try an experiment. Ask yourself: “How am I feeling, right at this moment?” Then sit quietly and wait for the answer to float up.

Don’t try to change how you feel. Don’t start an argument in your head about whether it’s logical to feel that way. Just notice it. And do this several times a day, every day. Make it such a habit that it’s easier to do it than not do it.

I know, I know. You think that knowing how you feel should just come naturally. But when you’re down there on Planet Earth, living amongst the humans, you’ll have people constantly telling you what you want and how you feel and what should make you happy, and a lot of that information will be incomplete, or misleading, or just plain wrong.

It’s not that humans are liars, generally speaking. It’s more that they don’t bother to check whether the things they say are true. Most of the time when they say something they don’t even know why they said it and why at that particular moment they didn’t decide to say something else instead. They can’t recall where they heard it, or they’re sure it’s true because “everyone knows” or “it’s just common sense” or some other non-reason. Or they think it probably isn’t true but they were just telling a joke, or they were just making conversation, or they didn’t think you were going to take everything so seriously.

The point I’m trying to get at is, it’s not fair to say that humans are liars, generally speaking, but nevertheless you can’t trust the things they say.

You’ll be flooded with low-quality information. You won’t have time to fact-check it all. The only way to cut through the noise is to collect your own data first-hand, to build up a store of high-quality, empirical information that will enable you to make happiness-maximising decisions. Or at least to learn from your mistakes.

Oh, morality? I suppose all this focus on being happy seems selfish to you? Well, it isn’t. Figuring out what makes other people happy is even harder than figuring out what makes you happy – you won’t be able to do it for others unless you practise on yourself first.

Yup, it’s confusing. And everyone else down there is just as confused as you are, more or less, but they aren’t the same kind of confused as you are. And most of them don’t even have a wise alien friend like me to advise them. The poor bastards.