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The Pursuit of Happiness

A Nobel Prize-winning psychologist says most people don’t really want to be happy

Interesting article, a quote:

Kahneman argues that satisfaction is based mostly on comparisons. “Life satisfaction is connected to a large degree to social yardsticks–achieving goals, meeting expectations."

While I guess this is largely true for society as a whole, it's something I try to avoid for myself, since comparison is the thief of joy.

The article argues that satisfaction is different from happiness, which is fleeting. And that satisfaction is linked to forming satisfying memories of experiences, and not the fleeting experiences themselves.

Still, it’s worth asking if we want to be happy, to experience positive feelings, or simply wish to construct narratives that seems worth telling ourselves and others, but doesn’t necessarily yield pleasure.

My own attitude towards happiness has evolved throughout the years. I think that right now my personal concept involves some mixture of joy (what he describes as fleeting happiness, enjoying the current moment), meaningful (participating in activies that make me feel sufficiently engaged or challenged), and avoidance of discomfort or boredom. The joy part may be simply things like spending time in the company of friends, reading a good book, enjoying a good movie, and so on. But those different elements live in a precarious balance. I can't be enjoying myself all the time, it would get boring. I need to intersperse enjoyment with meaningful activities. So I imagine in the day to day equation, the answer to "what makes me happy?" depends on which element of the balance needs to be reinforced at that moment.

The aspect of avoiding discomfort or boredom is a bit more complicated than the others. I made a promise to myself some time ago that I would avoid doing things that I don't want to do. This may seem nonsenical, I mean of course you don't do things you don't want to do. Except sometimes you do, maybe because of work pressure, peer pressure, or societal pressure or something else. So I wanted to avoid those kinds of things. But life isn't that straightforward, and sometimes you do want do some things that cause you discomfort or boredom, if they satisfy some other goal. Like for example, you can sacrifice your comfort for a while if it helps you get a dream business off the ground. Or you can participate in an activity you dislike because you know it will make your family happy. And so on.

This post ended up a bit of a meandering ramble, maybe because the concept of happiness itself is not so simple as we want it to be. I was just inspired to think a bit more about happiness because of the article. I suspect I will be revisiting this topic at a later time, and hopefully will be better able to express my thoughts on happiness.

Or maybe happiness isn't a set of principles to be encoded, just simply a life to be lived.

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Last modified at: Jan. 17, 2021, 4:56 a.m. Source file