There’s More to Life Than Happiness – But Wanting It is not Stupid or Selfish

The year is 2150. By some miracle, you’re still alive. The Happiness Machine has finally been invented.

At a cost of just $100, you can get one for yourself. It’s like a non-stop dose of heroine, ecstasy and marijuana combined, but without any of the negative side-effects – no brain damage, no poisoning, no psychological impairment. Best of all, there’s no dependence.

The Happiness Machine feels just as good on day 200 as it did on day 1, inducing a permanent state of euphoria. The only drawback is that once you’ve plugged yourself in, there’s no going back – the euphoria is permanent.

Would you use it?

There’s a point in my life when I might have answered yes. I’ve spent many of the past 10 years of my life not happy – the thought of the few and far between moments of happiness becoming permanent would have been alluring. But even when depressed, I don’t think I would have used the Happiness Machine.

Because there’s more to life than happiness.

There’s making a difference, accomplishing things, leaving a legacy, having a family.

That was the core message of a recent, popular article by the Atlantic: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.

I half-way agree – the pursuit of more happiness is only one of many important life goals.

But this article really pissed me off.

Scattered throughout the article are pieces of poisonous, toxic waste. They read like harmless ideas, but represent gross misrepresentations.

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Money Secret #3: The Stoic’s Guide To Buying Happiness

Can you buy happiness? How much impact does money actually have on happiness? Discover the stoic view of money.

All action is based on prediction.

Every time you do something, its because you or your subconscious brain has predicted that doing so will leave you better off than the alternative.

Decide to stay with your romantic partner? It’s because you predict they’ll make you feel better than being alone or with someone else.

Spend money? It’s because you predict purchasing that object will make you feel better than buying nothing or something else.

Perfect the art of prediction, and no joke, you can take over the world. You’d be able to pick the best romantic partner, best career, best stock portfolio, best education, best everything. No more returns.

In the form of conscious deliberation and subconscious emotion, prediction directs our behavior.

We’re passingly good at it.

We feel that spending time with friends and family will make us happy. So we do it and feel happy.

We deliberate that going for a jog will give us a high. So we do it and feel high.

We deliberate that slacking off at work will get us fired, which in turn will make us feel bad. So we work hard, keep our job, and avoid feeling bad.

But when it comes to money, passingly good becomes pathetically wrong.

Desire distracts.

A college student dreams of becoming a lawyer making a cool $150,000. He’s been told he’s good at arguing and has an eye for detail, he’s hardworking and ambitious, and most important of all, he wants that $150,000.

Lawyers are four times more likely to develop depression and two to six times more likely to commit suicide.1,2

Desire distracts  – only 4 in 10 lawyers would recommend their career to others. What happened to the quality of life?

Why gamble and hope to be one of the 40%?

A yelper has spotted a new Mexican restaurant. It’s got a bad rating, but why not give it a try – it’s got a great looking menu, complete with too good to be true pictures of its food.

Desire distracts – less than 1 in 10 yelp users enjoy their meal at a low rated restaurant.3 What happened to the quality of food?

Why gamble and hope to be one of the 10%?

Just because the college student desires to be a lawyer or the yelper desires to eat at that Mexican restaurant, doesn’t mean that doing so will make them happy.

The strength of your desire DOES NOT EQUAL the amount of happiness that ;ies at the end of the road. 

Usually, it does, but when it comes to money, shi*t goes crazy – our desire gets hijacked for purposes not our own.

I’d prefer me and my family to be the ones benefiting from my earning and spending behavior. All too often, I’m not. All too often, we’re not.

Considering how much of our lives revolve around money, that’s a problem. This desire hijacking is the biggest obstacle to our successfully buying happiness.

But there’s a fix – free and easy to implement.

No, not hiding in a cave and trying to avoid the 1,000+ daily desire distorters (also known as marketing messages) thrown our way.

Something much easier.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you now, so first, more on how money makes your usually intelligent brain go haywire.

  1. Your memory becomes foolish.
  2. Your extrapolations become foolish.
  3. Your desire becomes foolish.

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The Science of Accomplishment – 30 Motivational Skills To Get Your New Year’s Resolution Done

Confident that you’ll achieve your New Year’s resolution?

Most people are. Only 12% succeed.1

88% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

Let’s make this time different.

Gamble and wish for the best, or take the long-term approach and guarantee eventual success.

Develop The Skill of Accomplishment

Accomplishment is not one inspirational technique or burst of willpower away.

It’s a skill, with lessons to practice and techniques to internalize.

The skills on this page have been tested by over 100,000 people across 103 scientific studies, to:

  • Improve diabetes self-management.74
  • Increase fruit consumption by 117% for seven days.42
  • Reduce calorie consumption by more than 100 per day.77
  • Take faster action towards cutting back on bad habits.78
  • Reduce alcohol consumption by 25% for a month.43
  • Reduce relapse.101,102
  • Increase work speed.6
  • Increase the likelihood of finishing a project on time.48,49,100
  • Increase ease of effort and work endurance.16,17,26,30
  • Score 20 to 35% higher on a series of foreign language learning quizzes.44
  • Complete 60% more practice questions in preparation for the PSAT.41
  • Spend 22 to 37% longer studying for a midterm.49

Accomplishment is hard. It has never in the history of human-kind ever been so unnatural.

Our brains weren’t designed to resist fatty food or exercise because the doctor said so.

Luckily, we happen to be the most adaptable species in the galaxy. We can rewire our instinct-driven behavior into goal-driven behavior.

Done right, we can even make pursuing our goals enjoyable.

Let’s take a look at the achievement equation. To hack it, we must first understand it.

science of achievment
Luck is uncontrollable and willpower requires too much effort, so let’s put those aside.

↑Value, ↑Likelihood, ↓Delay, ↓Distractions, ↑Expertise → ↑Success

If you’re not making the progress you want, one or more of those factors needs tweaking.

Let’s get started.

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Happiness & Money Secret #2: Anticipate As If You’re Going to Kiss Mila Kunis

Anticipation is one of the strongest emotions that bring happiness.

Do you remember that feeling… of the night before Christmas, of being so excited and full of anticipation that you couldn’t fall asleep?

I do, but I’ve really got to squeeze my brain. That youthful luster is a long gone memory.

Maturity happened.

As an adult in training, my natural urge to anticipate was discouraged. For some reason, that urge was associated with childlike immaturity.

As an American male, expressions of excitement and joy were further discouraged. To be ‘cool’ is to be composed and in control.

That’s a shame.

We’re missing out on a lot.

This is part two in a four-part series on money and happiness.

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168 Reasons To Give Thanks

The power of thanks can be a key to happiness.

Whether you give thanks regularly or just on special occasions, taking time to be grateful reaps many rewards.

Gratitude is both a skill and a personality trait – with time, it develops and matures.

Six months ago when I began my journey, each night was a struggle – it took an effort to come up with things to write in my gratitude journal.

In the spirit of this holiday, I wanted to see how much that had changed.

I just spent the past 2 hours in intense meditation, coming up with as many reasons to be thankful as I could.

There was only one criteria – did thinking about the item generate feelings of positive emotion? If yes, it was put on the list.

I ended up 168 items. Wow, does 2 hours of continuous gratitude practice feel great!

But just two or three items is enough. If you’re feeling adventurous, write a handwritten thank you note.

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Money Secret #1: Buy Many Small Pleasures

Can money buy happiness?

It can. At least in some ways.

Financial security from money management reduces divorce rates, increases life span, and just plain feels good.1,2,3

Wealth purchases life-changing vacations, variety – the spice of life, and free time – with which to actually live life.

Despite this, the average person with a family income greater than $75,000 is just 12% happier than the average person with a family income of $30,000.4 They’ve adapted. To them, a juicy steak tastes just a bit better than $1 ramen tastes to me.

The common refrain of money doesn’t buy happiness is true, but with a caveat – for the average person, money doesn’t buy happiness.

There are outliers – people who have very little money but smile like kings, and people who double their income, and in the process, also double their happiness.

I am not one of those people. Most people aren’t.

After all, dozens of studies have shown it mostly true – for the average person, money doesn’t buy happiness.5

There’s a fix. We just need to stop being average.

Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, says,

If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.5

Money does buy happiness, but only when used in particular, often counter-intuitive ways.

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