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Stop Wasting Time Being Unhappy

I've been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Even considered changing this blog's topic to Happiness. Ultimately, good customer experience and employee experience are ultimately all about making people Happy.

And isn't being Happy what it's all about?

People are starting to optimize for time, not happiness because more money does not mean more happiness:

Since World War II the gross domestic product per capita has tripled in the United States. But people's sense of well-being, as measured by surveys asking some variation of "Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?," has barely budged. Japan has had an even more meteoric rise in GDP per capita since its postwar misery, but measures of national happiness have been flat, as they have also been in Western Europe during its long postwar boom, according to social psychologist Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University in Rotterdam. A 2004 analysis of more than 150 studies on wealth and happiness concluded that "economic indicators have glaring shortcomings" as approximations of well-being across nations, wrote Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Martin E. P. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. "Although economic output has risen steeply over the past decades, there has been no rise in life satisfaction … and there has been a substantial increase in depression and distrust."

So what's the secret to living a happy life? Close relationships, a sense of meaning, and belonging:

once your basic needs are met "differences in well-being are less frequently due to income, and are more frequently due to factors such as social relationships and enjoyment at work." Other researchers add fulfillment, a sense that life has meaning, belonging to civic and other groups, and living in a democracy that respects individual rights and the rule of law. If a nation wants to increase its population's sense of well-being, says Veenhoven, it should make "less investment in economic growth and more in policies that promote good governance, liberties, democracy, trust and public safety."

These are true things, and there's a growing demand for helping people find Happiness, even if it means having less money. Consider:

  • I know people who've left high-paying jobs to pursue passions and make a LOT less money. Being one of them, it's ludicrous to even think about going back
  • The explosive success of books like The Four-Hour Work Week, which show you how to follow your passions now
  • The rise of positive psychology. Researchers study factors that make people happy. Contrast this with traditional psychology research, which is obsessed with pathology. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, and Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, are two respected positive psychologists that you should know about
  • Sites like The Experience Project and 43 Things are amazing places to find people who can help you follow your passions, and people like Steve Pavlina help you find happiness by "achieving your highest potential"

If you're reading this post, time is the most scarce and thus most valuable currency you have. You can always earn money. I'm constantly reminded of this by my business partner Jon, who is willing to pay $10 / hour for Craigslisters to do pretty much any task he doesn't want to do, so he can focus on things he considers fun and high-value.

So instead of wasting time making money that won't make you happy (if it *does* make you Happy, by all means, ignore this), pay attention the Dan Gilbert's findings. Gilbert says that humans are actually quite bad at predicting what makes them happy. For example, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy a year after their life-changing incidents. So, instead of assuming that more money, or a nicer car, or a fancier office will make you happy, think about the close relationships you have, how you derive meaning from work and play, and what groups or communities you belong to. And then immerse yourself in them.

Actually, immerse yourself *after* you watch this TED Talk by Gilbert...

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Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

Contact: blog -at- reemer


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