What are some key ways most people are misunderstanding happiness?

As I reffered to in the question above we think about the short term, getting a massage or watching a movie where in fact real happiness is different. It's more complex and difficult and it gives us a long term sense of happiness and joy and understanding, even overcoming challenges and beating the odds.
Aside from that, another big element that people miss when they think about happiness, based on research done by Mike Norton and Elizabeth Dunn which is also in their book Happy Money they show that one of the mistakes with happiness is that we think what makes us happy is to spend money on ourselves but in fact what makes us happier is to spend money on other people.
One of their experiments is they give people a gift card for Starbucks and people go to Starbucks and buy something. They called them in the evening and asked them how happy they are and the people who bought coffee are no happier than they people who didn't buy coffee for themselves. They then took a different group and give them the same gift card and tell them to buy coffee for a stranger and when they called them in the evening those people are happier than the ones who did not buy strangers a coffee. The first instinct is to buy yourself a cup of coffee because that gives you the largest burst of short term happiness. What people don't understand is that for longer term happiness it's not driven by doing more stuff for ourselves it's actually driven by doing more stuff for others.
The final thing people get wrong about happiness is that we think happiness comes from getting stuff when in fact it comes from getting experiences. Given the choice of whether to spend a weekend in the Seychelles diving or buying a cell phone. Usually people think the Seychelles trip will come and go but the cell phone will stay therefore they get the cell phone to make them happy but in reality while the vacation might go away the memory stays with us and that has a larger impact on our happiness than something physical like a cell phone. In essence we have a theory about our happiness that says we enjoy experiences less but the reality is that experiences end up creating much more long term happiness than stuff.

I'd like to start with the word "happy" first.

The meaning of the word "happy"- Online Etymology Dictionary (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Happiness is about being in advantageous circumstances. Something that's favored by luck.

[Now don't say you're asking to be favored by your luck all the time, throughout your life.]

Happiness is not what you think it is.

Happiness is

Finding your favorite fruit in the fridge when you're hungry.
Winning a lottery. Notice the how rare that event is.
Finding a fifty dollar bill on your morning walk.
When you see your high-school friend after a long time.
These events listed above are rare events.

You want the world to revolve around you all the time. You want to have your needs and wants to be fulfilled as soon as they spring up in your heart. Or whatever, whenever you desire. The people you want to love, love you back. You want the steak on your plate if this is what you want. You want to score a goal (every time) whether you're a good football player, whether you've practiced the entire season or not. You want the audience to abide you. And there's no end to the list. You want your expectations fulfilled every then and now. Whatever it is, whatever you desire, whatever task you pick, you want your luck to favor in it. This is happiness.

And this is not happening.

The world isn't going to revolve around you. Instead, you need to revolve around the world. Instead, you need to work your mind to figure things out.

How to do it?

That's an arduous process. That's a long way home. But you may or may not have the will to walk that path.

Repeat with me - This is impossible. This is not happening.

People have misunderstood the very word "happy" or "happiness".

Stop going after it.


One thing people misunderstand about happiness is that is it is often about changes in conditions as opposed to absolute conditions.

Suppose you are at retirement (say age 70) and you have three choices of income streams. For each of the streams you can receive a certain amount of money in year 1, a certain amount in year 2, and a certain amount in year 3:

  1. $80, $100, $120 (take a hit at retirement but life gets better over time)
  2. $100, $100, $100 (life stays the same)
  3. $120, $100, $80 (live large at retirement, but then life slowly gets worse over time).

Which would you prefer?

Based on surveys by one of my colleagues, most people like #1 best (biggest percentage of people by a lot).

But if you think about that from an economic point of view, #1 is actually the worst one. The optimal one from an economic perspective is probably #3, which is to maximize and grab your money as fast as possible in case you die at the end of year 1 or 2. However, from a happiness point of view, a lot of people like #1.

So happiness is not always about economics and wealth. Provided some minimum levels of needs are met, a significant yet often overlooked aspect of happiness is considering the role of change.

If you are intereted in the topic of happiness in behavioral science, you might look at this paper by Prof. Chris Hsee at Chicago on hedonomics. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/... If you are familiar with the concept of nudging, think of this paper as a nudging framework for happiness.

End note: If interested, see a recent WSJ article by my colleague (highly related to the first example I mentioned above): https://www.google.com/amp/www.w...


Steve Shu specializes in incubating new initiatives with a primary focus on strategy, technology, and behavioral economics. He is author of Inside Nudging: Implementing Behavioral Science Initiatives and The Consulting Apprenticeship: 40 Jump-Start Ideas for You and Your Business.

Happiness isn't something that you find, buy, or reach - it's a learned skill, and it often takes a lifetime to master.

If you're skilled at being happy, the circumstances of your life will be largely irrelevant. You can live in squalor, face tremendous challenges and hardships, yet persevere with a sense of contentment and thankfulness simply for the fact that you're alive.

If you're unskilled at being happy, you can be the richest, luckiest, most fortunate person in the world and still not appreciate any of it.

You can strengthen this skill by practicing being humble, curious, kind, selfless, welcoming, non-judgmental, reflective, and thankful for any experience that enters your life - good or bad.

One of the key problems in my opinion is that people believe in something called "happiness" ,that it can be "found" and that it can last for a long time. Perhaps
happiness" is something one feels as a lack An absence of misery, a lack of UNhappiness ,in fact.When everything seems to be harmonious and in synch.

It is not difficult to know what makes you unhappy. Perhaps one can try to avoid these situations/Either that or just accept that unhappiness is something that everyone has to experience from time to time and just be mature enough to accept http://it.It usually doesn't last forever. At my time of life I find that the sense of CONTENTMENT is longer lasting,comforting,and generally a positive and beneficial state to be in.Feelings of happiness are usually quite fleeting. I think that to be in a permanent state of happiness is unrealistic, unattainable and ultimately possibly rather http://boring. For oneself and for those around you

Happiness is something that is pursued - "The Pursuit of Happiness" - which is never reached and remains ever elusive. Like a hamster in the wheel, people pursue happiness through materialism, their sexuality, drugs, etc.

Happiness however is consistently having the right mix of hormones floating in the brain. "The feelings we experience are nothing more than chemical reactions". Read on....Hormones that make you happy

That doesn't give you the answer to finding happiness, but certainly makes one realize that materialism, sexuality, drugs, etc are not the answer.

Then two major mistakes are mistaking pleasure for happiness and beilieving that you can make yourself happy. Pleasure feels good but you can overdose on any pleasure and the what do you have? Happiness? No! More likely a hangover! Say to yourself in the morning that you are going to make yourself happy.

To me happiness is an epiphenomenon. It is a side feect of living a good life. Get things done, live with the truth and one day you will disover that you are happy. I think that Dan's hintss on this are dead on.

What is living with the truth? Try lying and see how that feels.

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