20 Ways to be Happy

The New York Magazine has a list of 20 ways to be happy.   Here are some excerpts:

Decide where to go to college by picking two decent schools and flipping a coin.  […] Those who seize the first option that meets
their standards (which don’t have to be low, just defined) are happier
than those who insist on finding the perfect solution.

So Dad’s way of shopping was best – he always made us buy the first item that fit.  (So the strategy was to say that nothing fit until you found the one you liked.)

Don’t go to law school.
Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than members of other
professions, and it’s not just because their jobs are more stressful.
For most people, job stress has little effect on happiness unless it is
accompanied by a lack of control (lawyers, of course, have clients to
listen to) or involves taking something away from somebody else (a
common feature of the legal system).

I know lots of people with law degrees that aren’t lawyers, probably because being a lawyer doesn’t make people happy.  People don’t like lawyers either, which probably adds to the unhappiness.

If someone tells you he’s still pining for his ex, ask the ex out.

If somebody else liked him, you are likely to too.

If you can’t decide what TV to buy, walk across the hall and ask your neighbor if he likes his.
[…] Turns out, people are happier following

This is how I bought my new phone and I really like it.  Usually I research all the options forever, don’t really like any one of them and then pick one.  This time I asked the t-mobile rep what he would buy if "small" was the most important criteria.  And I like it.

But don’t work overtime . . .
[…] lottery winners and Forbes 100 members are no more likely to be satisfied than anyone else.

Just make sure you live next to people that make less than you do.  Even if you only make $30K a year, you’ll be happier than if you made $100K and lived next to people that made $150K.

They also said married people are happier and kids don’t make you any happier than you were.  I disagree with the kids one because I think families and communities make people happy.

Photo by 油姬.


Challenges in life are fun!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life and I had another ah-hah moment this weekend.  I spent the whole weekend with Caleb in the hospital and it didn’t bother me at all – once they figured out that Caleb was going to be ok that is.  I did feel extremely grateful that we had health insurance – I might not have been as calm through three days in the hospital without insurance but that’s another topic.  So being in the hospital with a sick kid didn’t bother me.

We have also been spending a lot of money and vacation time lately.  Some of it planned (like for vacations and treadmills) and some of it unplanned (like for hospital stays and snow storms.)   And that didn’t bother me.

And I realized a while ago that if I won the lottery I wouldn’t want to go sit on the beach for the rest of my life.  I’d want a few interesting things to do.

While I was thinking about all this, I ran across Steve Pavlina’s Life – The Ultimate Game post.  And it made sense.   He writes that life is like a video game and you don’t play the game because winning is fun.  You want to win, but you don’t play just because you want to win.  You also enjoy all the challenges along the way (can you get past that hairy monster or collect all the right objects?) and all the places you explore.  Even when you are losing, you might be having a lot of fun.   You might play one game for days, weeks or even months without "winning."

That explains why people hike the Appalachian Trail, sky dive or even raise kids. The challenges and the journey are as rewarding as the end goal.

I’m not big into video games, so I’d rather think of life as a game of cards.  You start out with the hand you’re dealt and play it the best you can.  If you get all top cards, you’ll win fast and it’ll be exciting for a minute, but if you’re dealt a not so good hand and you make it work, it’s so much more satisfying.  You prove that you are good, not just lucky.  The way I see it I started out with a pretty good hand, my parents added a few good cards (like self-confidence and a college education) and now I’m playing the best I can.  When I get a bad card (like a hospital stay or an unexpected bill), I just add it to the mix and see how I can make it work out. [And sometimes you need that low card to get the straight!]

I’m having fun playing and I’m winning! 🙂

Book review: The Secret

First off, there are three versions of the Secret by Rhonda Byrne:

  • the book, The Secret.
  • the audiobook, The Secret.  This contains many different people’s voices, presumably from the movie version.
  • the movie, The Secret DVD!  Most of the reviews you’ve seen are about the movie.

I listened to the audiobook version.

I think how you are introduced to a book greatly influences how much you like it or at least how open you are to liking it.  I first heard about The Secret from a group of friends who watched the movie together and they couldn’t say enough good about it.  I was supposed to beg, steal or borrow a copy to watch!  So I downloaded the audiobook version.  I enjoyed it but if I hadn’t listened to The Attractor Factor first, I would have dismissed it all as hokey.  The Secret introduces the law of attraction with a lot of hype and very big promises.  They make it seem like it is possible to wish a bike or a winning lottery ticket into existence through sheer will power.  Now while I believe that remaining positive and open will mean that many more opportunities will be available to you than if you are always negative, I don’t think you can wish tomorrow’s winning lottery ticket into your hand.  So while the audiobook was uplifting and positive, it was a bit unrealistic.  So, I wonder, if I’d read this negative review first, or if I hadn’t learned about the law of attraction from The Attractor Factor, I wonder if I would have liked The Secret at all?  Would the negative review have set me up to think negatively about it, would I have concentrated on the hokiness and would I be writing a really negative review now?  If so, it just goes to show you that thinking positive brings positive results (I enjoyed listening to the book) and thinking negative brings negative results (I might not have made it through the book!)  On the influencing positively side, The Secret made the top ten list at Amazon.com and The New York Times.  Does that make you want to read it now?


A good observation from The Happiness Project on how to be more energetic and how it will affect others around you.

Energy (or lack of energy) is contagious. If you feel energetic, you’ll help the people around you feel energetic, too. And that makes them feel happier, too. In fact, studies show that being an energizer was one of the strongest predictors of a positive performance evaluation at work.

I buy that.  Think of the best performers in your office.  They probably get a lot done but they are almost always very energetic as well.

How to be happy

This CNN article talks about happiness and about how we are terrible at remembering what made as happy and even worse at figuring out what makes us happy.  A couple of tidbits:

  1. Invest in experiences instead of things:
    "One mistake that people seem to make is if they invest in durable goods
    when some studies suggest they’d be happier if they invested money in
  2. Ask other people who have done it how much they enjoyed it:
    "If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive
    or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who
    have actually done these things and see how happy they are."  Although he does say that people are terrible at remembering how happy they were, so maybe the best thing is to find someone who is actually doing it, and ask them!

So basically, do your reasearch to figure out if something will make you happy!