The 3 Myths of Happiness

Posted by 18 December, 2008

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I recently wrote about What Determines Happiness that may be a companion article to this post. In the book, The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, she determined that you have the opportunity to improve your happiness by as much as 40%. That almost sounds like a random figure, but fortunately she has a TON of references to back up her research which is why I find the book to be of high value. The other 60% of your potential happiness is made up of a genetic set point and circumstances (married or single, high paying job or low paying job, fit or not fit). Only 10% of your happiness is determined by your circumstances and the other 50% is determined by your genetic composition.

No matter your current happiness level, I think these happiness myths will certainly help you in your journey to finding happiness.

Myth #1

Happiness Must Be Found – Happiness must be found means that you will not be happy until you find your dream job, find the perfect spouse, or move to your ideal city. This myth may or may not be a no brainer for you. For me, while I know that buying a BMW M3 won’t make me happier, this is a nice reminder. One of my goals is to be financially independent by age 40 ( I have 9.5 years left). One thing I need to keep in mind is that why this is an ambitious goal and a financial situation that seems like nirvana to me, I need to ensure I enjoy the journey. In other words, I need to make sure I’m happy now and through my journey to and after financial independence. I need to make sure that I’m happy whether I’m financially independent or not.

Myth #2

Happiness Lies in Changing Our Circumstances – This refers to the statement that Sonja calls “I will be happy IF ______” or “I will be happy WHEN _______”. One of the examples that my wife and I point to as potential circumstances that we think will make us happy is going back to college or moving abroad. The fact of the matter is that while we may get the initial “rush” from going back to school to relive our college years or moving abroad, these circumstances will only increase our happiness by 10% and I bet the affects would wear off shortly after going to school or moving abroad.

Myth #3

Either You Have It or You Don’t – Have you met the person that is always optimistic and always happy about everything? I know I assumed that they were born happy. Perhaps they were born with a higher genetic set point, but through research, it has been determined that you are able to control 40% of your happiness. Happiness is inside all of us. You just have to decide you want it.

I’d love to hear your comments!

Photo By: MiniDriver

External References

The Happiness Myth – NY Times Book Review

The Happiness Myth @ Amazon

The Happiness Myth – Mental Interface Book Review

The 10 Biggest Myths of Happiness by 10 Biggest Myths.net

The Happiness Myth – Washington Post Book Review

Other Posts

17 Ways to Save the Planet
The Biggest Bailout Ever
Is Happiness Viral?
What Determines Happiness?
10 Simple Ways to Overcome Disappointment


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Comments
December 18, 2008

I agree with your assessment of these three myths. However, I would add that, to me, achieving and maintaining a state of “happiness” takes effort, just as maintaining a loving relationship in a marriage requires work. Also, too many boomers and others seem to associate being happy with being at some level of euphoria. I liken happiness more to contentment with life.

Posted by Mr. GoTo
December 18, 2008

I think contentment is important. There’s a lot to be said for being content with what you have, and not constantly worrying about whether you have what you need to be happy — or worse, whether you are happy enough.

Posted by Miranda
December 18, 2008

@ Mr. GoTo – Thank you so much for the comment!

@ Miranda – I definitely agree with you. It’s definitely an attribute I am working on!

Thanks!
-HIB

Posted by admin
December 18, 2008

My genetic set point must be fantastic – I’m almost always happy, even when life gives me lemons. Sometimes I just sit around feeling madly in love with life itself … happiness rocks.

Blessings,
Andrea

December 19, 2008

hmmm of course I’d have to study this, but %50 genetic seems ungodly high. i think the way you are raised has more to do with it than genetics….seems intuitive.

Posted by mutant_minds
December 20, 2008

I disagree with #2. I have a good job right now, and that makes me super-happy. I enjoy the challenges I face and my experiences there. Right, happiness should not “depend” on circumstances, but let’s be realistic, we are real people with real needs, and favorable circumstances surely help 🙂

Posted by Keith Johnson
December 20, 2008

@ Andrea – It sounds like you are a great person to be around!

@ Mutant_minds – Interesting point. This guy: http://www.psych.umn.edu/people/faculty/bouchard.htm actually did research on a set of twins separated at birth. The study shows that even though they had a different home life, they were found to have the same happiness level. Is this by chance, maybe, but it’s definitely an interesting study. Thanks!

Posted by HIB
December 22, 2008

I agree with not being happy somewhere else, YOU are still going to be you and the same you is going to be there,

It is really all up to you to choose to be happy or to choose to whine about everything.

December 29, 2008

I truely believe that Positive Thinking = Happiness.

Posted by Brian
December 29, 2008

@ Dee – Thank you for the comment! I have definitely noticed that happy people and successful people usually don’t whine.

@ Brian – I absolutely agree. Positive Thinking = Happiness

Posted by HIB
January 23, 2009

My genetic set-point is low, so I’ve learned that happiness is a CHOICE and it takes diligent PRACTICE. Great post!

Millionaire Mommy Next Door’s last blog post..How I Became A Millionaire: Part 2, Early Adulthood

January 23, 2009

well said!

Happiness….your right, it’s wither you do or don’t. You control your own emotions. If you want it, BE HAPPY!

AJ Kumar

AJ Kumar’s last blog post..Courage. Do You Have it or Do You Want it?

Posted by AJ Kumar
January 23, 2009

Man happiness is nothing but a mindset, you don’t earn happiness, you simply DECIDE happiness.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to better yourself, but don’t be thinking “i’ll be happy when”

That’s a surefire way to disaster.

GuffinMopes’s last blog post..myLot: Get Paid to Chat

Posted by GuffinMopes
January 23, 2009

@ Millionaire Mommy Next Door – I’ve also learned that being happy takes effort. Thanks for the comment!

@ AJ – I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks!

@ GuffinMopes – I think that’s the thing I have to remind myself frequently. It’s not about the end goal, but the journey. Thanks for the comment!

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