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Karen Wang

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Do you agree that happiness is relative?

(with happiness defined as the overall satisfaction of life vs. contentment)
Basic Postulates:
1. happiness results from comparison
2. standards of comparison adjusts
3. standards of comparison are arbitrary constructs

Main Inferences
1. happiness does not depend on real quality of life
2. changes in living conditions to the good or the bad have only a short-lived effect on happiness
3. people are happier after hard times
4. people are typically neutral about their life


Topics: happiness
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    May 22 2011: I have a distant cousin named Happiness, so yeah, Happiness is relative.
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    Mar 11 2011: I agree in general, but would add something.
    Happiness depends a lot on your mindset. If your dreams are too exaggerated (meaning low probability of coming through), then you might feel unhappy. On the other hand, if you keep your dreams attainable and/or take your present situation to make the best out of it, then happiness will come easier.

    But yes, happiness, most certainly is relative and means different things to different people.
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      Jul 8 2011: So people with really high aspirations in life are bound to be less likely to be happy than those who have goals that are easier to achieve?

      Where does that leave the current mindset of pretty much everyone in this century? People have been coached/trained/educated to want more and more things and higher goals with the passig of time.

      Maybe society would find it favorable to just go back to basics? No more aiming for a Ferrari, double plastic D's, the latest fashion in clothing, a five bedroom ocean view with a bathroom big enough to play baseball in?
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        Jul 8 2011: Hola Maria Fernanda.....no, having high aspirations is a good thing, at least in my opinion, but what I tried to convey is that aspirations and the probability of these aspirations becoming reality must somehow be in line. If you are a cab driver and your aspiration is to own a Ferrari, then the probability of that going to happen is most likely pretty slim. Or if you have a high expectation in winning a lottery jackpot then you might be even off worse. Now, there is a difference between just saying "I'd like to have a Ferrari" or "I'd like to win the lottery" and a sort of attachment to this desire that makes you feel bad if your desire doesn't become reality. If the latter is the case, then you are bound to feel less happy.
        In other words, if there is no or very little chance that you can make a strong desire become reality, then you most likely will be less happy. The more your expectations coincide with your reality (or reality with your expectations) the happier you will be.
        About going back to basics: "basics" might be something different for different people. For some people the 5 bedroom ocean view might be basic.
        I don't think there is such thing as "basics" after satisfying our needs (not desires).
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    Apr 23 2011: Absolutely. Ambiguous I think is another word that can be applied. Makes it very hard to measure definitely, considering everyone has a different type of measuring stick.
  • Jun 26 2011: Absolutely agree, especially after listening to Dan Gilbert "Why are we happy". I've always felt that things happen for a reason and I'm so lucky that everything "bad" in my life always turns out "good". Is it fake? Am I fooling myself? If I am, does it matter? I still believe I'm lucky and I still consider myself a very happy person.

    1. happiness does not depend on real quality of life
    R-> Wouldn't quality be relative?

    2. changes in living conditions to the good or the bad have only a short-lived effect on happiness
    R-> True for news shoes or a cool leather jacket. How do you feel about a change like adopting a puppy, having a child or a long term new & dynamic addition to your life? That's not short lived yet people swear they are happier because of them.

    3. people are happier after hard times
    R-> And relieved. :o)

    4. people are typically neutral about their life
    R-> they probably are. Myself included. I sometimes “shift” (since we are using car metaphors) up out of neutral by comparing my life to some person with more toys than me then shift down and be happy that I have the essentials that many don’t have. Does that make sense? I think getting out of neutral helps me get back on track. Now I’ve crashed ( I totally forgot where I was going with this) ;o) Have a HAPPY day!
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    May 22 2011: I think those two related talks already proved happiness is relative, in which I agree with.
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    May 22 2011: Happiness depends on quality of life, one is much less likely to be happy if one is sick and can't afford a doctor. A mother that has lost a child because of an easy to cure disease like diarrhea will not be as happy as a mother that has her child successfully healed. Here's a list with the numbers of death of infants under a year old in the world. Is it possible that their families who could not prevent their deaths and suffering are not affected by these events and are just as happy as they would have been had their kids lived? https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

    I agree that happiness can be relative, a poor person in Brazil, even though poor, who can still afford the basics and can afford a TV(if that was their dream) can be happier than a middle class person in the USA, this is when the mindset and attitudes come into play. But first, the basics need to be taken care of. People need to feel fulfilled somehow, the kind of fulfillment is relative.

    If our physical needs aren't met then we won't be as happy as if they are met. Most importantly, it is easier to be happier (thus more will be happy) when these needs are met.
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    May 11 2011: I believe "to be happy" or "not to be happy" do not depends on current state, and has everything to do with the person's perspective.
    Yes I agree that happiness results from comparison, but from my experience I say some choose to be happy with the least they have and some choose to always look miserable with all the goods they have.
    And I agree that changes in living condition to good or bad has only short-lived effect on happiness, and soon people return to their usual state of happiness. Same is true for saying that they are happier after hard times, the happiness of the gains is too short-lived.
  • Apr 25 2011: Happiness is ENTIRELY relative to your environment. I completely agree that in our society we are always comparing ourselves to others and are happy based on our views of ourselves relative to our views of others. It is also obvious that happiness and unhappiness based on quality of life is entirely ephemeral since people usually are neutral. Often, when we ask someone how they are they answer with "not bad" or "okay", meaning that they really don't feel strongly one way or the other about their happiness level, they are simply in the middle. I think that times of great happiness and unhappiness are definitely caused by situational rather than internal factors.
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    Apr 16 2011: Yes.
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    Apr 15 2011: unhappy anyone who disagree

    actually I dont know now how to feel about the fact its news or even unknown to the people :(
    of course it makes me just same happy as before
    but how about you now? -I am used to the fact that people try to compare ... why cant we all be just happy with & without
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    Apr 10 2011: I agree with you. I even talked about this exact subject at TEDxThessaloniki a week ago.
    "My passport to eudaimonia (happiness +)" was the title of my talk and it explained how I am super happy in Greece, although the country is in a deep crisis!
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    Mar 25 2011: Can't disagree. Positive mindset might help someone to be relatively happier . You see again the term relative came in :)
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    Mar 25 2011: Yes, I wholeheartedly believe happiness relative. I believe happiness is usually not achieved because of some combination of (1) fear (2) greed and (3) ignorance. All 3 can be improved over time.
  • Mar 23 2011: Happy is a state of mind. It's sometimes dependent on circumstance but not always and not in everyone. There are people who are happy simply because they want to be. And for the rest of us, for some reason the very act of curving the corners of our mouths upward triggers happy feelings; such feelings of happiness are only as relative as existence.
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    Mar 19 2011: i agree too , and i agree with Haralds opinoion.And i think that happiness is a roadway , not a bound.So i think that we must agree for what we are into but also always we have to keep searching for the best.
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    Mar 12 2011: Everything is relative and based on comparison in our minds, so I agree.