TED Conversations

Tony Dunne

Independent Business Owner, ACN Pacific,

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Why do people who have many advantages in life struggle with ongoing happiness whilst others with far less to be happy about are happier?

Its common for people with many advantages, physical, mental, environmental, family etc to be unhappy and depressed.

On the other hand people with the exact opposite are often far more happy in themselves, with their lives and about the future.

I personally know a blind person, one of my very best friends who lost his sight at age 16. Now at age 24 he is the happiest guy you would ever meet, very optimistic and positive and he believes his blindness is a gift that has helped him develop other parts of himself that he may never have even been aware of.

Clearly our view of the world has a profound impact on our outlook in life but thats the confusing part. If you have a great upbringing and many of the trappings of "a great life", then how do the people with those advantages of birth and environment continue to fall short in their overall happiness yet the people with severe obstacles are often the happiest.

We can assume that the things we all focus on and value the most are what gives us our sense of self. Is the answer as simple as the quality of our values and beliefs are the driving force behind our happiness?

Would people benefit from living as say a blind person for a 3 month term so as to develop other more enduring drivers to happiness?

+13
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Aug 9 2012: It's the law of diminishing returns. The more one has the more one wants. Once a person has advantages and possessions, there is then a struggle to maintain, take care of, and acquire more advantages and possessions. Enough is never enough.

    We also often phrase success in purely economic terms. We then determine that successful people are happy. I believe successful people are happy, but I don't believe successful people are so necessarily because of their economic situation. With that as a given, happiness is based on other factors, which may or may not lead to economic success, and the burdens of economic wealth may indeed decrease happiness.

    I don't believe one needs to be poor to be happy, and I know that struggling to meet daily needs is a burden of its own. This makes defining happiness even more elusive and plants it firmly in the arena of perception and demeanor, which don't show up on a bank statement.
    • thumb
      Aug 9 2012: Since the example in this particular conversation is not about poverty vs. wealth, but about blindness vs. sight, I saw that to be already acknowledging that wealth is not the sole determinant of success or happiness. But I think that your point still holds -- if we have plenty, we want more, maybe even in terms of the capabilities of our own bodies.
      • thumb
        Aug 9 2012: Point taken, Morton.

        I was focusing on the statement, "If you have a great upbringing and many of the trappings of "a great life", then how do the people with those advantages of birth and environment continue to fall short in their overall happiness yet the people with severe obstacles are often the happiest."

        I guess the post prompted me to jump on a soap box, where I see people repeatedly tying happiness to economic measures. It is actually very encouraging to see the TED group a more enlightened crowd. Thanks!
    • thumb
      Aug 10 2012: Hi Eric

      You say enough is never enough, i agree that'd be right generally. In my case now that I have more than enough and can retire in my 40's my focus has shifted to giving back more and helping people to have a better life. I don't want or need more i want others to have more. Thats sounds like a desire from more but feels like a desire to contribute.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.