A Formula For Happiness

Long article in the New York Time by Arthur Brooks. Definitely worth a read. I think it’s interesting but there might be a difference between a study of happiness among groups of people and a formula for happiness. Knowing who is happy and who isn’t is one thing, why they are or are not happy is another.

The article confirms something I believe. Liberals are less happy than conservatives. This makes sense. Liberals are agitators and conservatives want to be left alone. Liberals want to tell others how to think, conservatives just want others to stop telling them how to think. Liberals want to change the world, conservatives want to change their neighborhood, and then only if it needs changing. Liberals believe order in the universe happens only if they are in charge of it, conservatives believe the greatest order exists when all people are free to make their own life decisions and form the voluntary associations with others that most suits them.

People who don’t have a job are less happy than people who have a job they depend on for their living. Earned success brings far more happiness than getting your daily bread by stealing it or from public welfare. That’s true, and that’s why it’s cruel and not at all compassionate for governments to adopt policies putting millions of their people on welfare.

Happiness is largely something that is more elusive the harder it’s pursued. It’s the cat that will not obey a command to come to you, but if you ignore it comes and sits in your lap.

A simple formula for happiness, one that might be thought of as a pre-requisite for any other pursuit of happiness, is to first understand two big things. Nothing will destroy happiness quicker and more thoroughly than envy. Happiness is very difficult to achieve by anyone who is not properly grateful for the good luck they have had. The two big things which form the foundation for the pursuit of happiness are avoidance of envy and the getting of gratitude.  If life is a compilation of the good and bad luck we’ve had, and I believe it is, then our lives consists of two piles of luck, a good one and a bad one. You must be grateful for your stack of good luck, whether it’s short of tall. It helps to remember that the harder one works to achieve their goals, the luckier one is likely to be.

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said that people are about as happy as they decide to be. Since he had a tendency to melancholia, this is something he knew about. Nelson Mandela said resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy. I say try to learn from but never dwell on misfortune, celebrate the good things in your life, and happiness will be your companion.