TED Conversations

Tony Dunne

Independent Business Owner, ACN Pacific,

This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Aug 10 2012: Well many people don't see what they have as "advantages". They see their lives as God given rights. Everything from a bed to sleep in at night to clean running water that you can drink without having it kill you is the way life is "supposed to be". Its hard to believe that for many billions of people in this world, their reality is quite different.

    What isn't acknowledged as a blessing soon becomes routine - or even worse a curse.

    The trick to being happy is being thankful for your blessings, no matter how 'small' they may seem. The fact that you woke up this morning is a blessing. Some people didn't make it though the night. If you had breakfast this morning, that's a blessing. Many people in this world woke up to nothing and for most of human history people lived in the edge of starvation.

    People are waiting to hit the powerball or some other unlikely circumstance to be happy and grateful. They think that a miracle has to happen for God to prove his favor. What they don't realize is that each day we wake up is a miracle and we are surrounded by miracles each and every day.
    • thumb
      Aug 11 2012: While I would agree with most of the sentiment here... I have to say I think "Everything from a bed to sleep in at night to clean running water that you can drink without having it kill you is the way life is "supposed to be", is the most dangerous thought a human being can engage in.

      Rome didn't have running water because it was blessed. It had running water because a whole bunch of soldiers, citizens, and slaves worked themselved to death in crippling poverty to build aquaducts. If you just expect these blessings... You're going to be waiting a long time.
    • Aug 22 2012: Robin, you make a very good point.

      In one of his pieces on Sixty Minutes, Andy Rooney said he was grateful for living in a civilization that delivers hot water to his shower every day. I think of this every time I take a hot shower. So many of us take these everyday aspects of our infrastructure for granted. A hot shower is indeed an amazing, wonderful and sensually pleasurable luxury. Hygienic too.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.