TED Conversations

Tony Dunne

Independent Business Owner, ACN Pacific,

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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?


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  • Aug 11 2012: The reality is that where you are born sets your baselines for happyness. So what you call 'blessings' become 'the standard' the bare necessities. Human beings are obsessed with self improvement and their personal power all driven largely by mating instincts. Many men would become unemployed tomorrow if they could land steady sex with women without a job. Status seeking amongst men and women are part of what drive depression and unhappyness because they've been raised in a corrupt power hungry, over-specialized consumerist society.

    The other is the toxic nature of capitalist society. Our current form of political economic system is authoritarian rule by faceless unaccountable corporations 'rule by price', with government as police-man. Most people have no autonomy at work or any influence on the businesses they work for because of rules that govern the legal structure of ownership. i.e. you can't kick out bad bosses, or management that is tanking the company you work for or polluting the environment or spreading false political propaganda. You're just a non-owning wage slave. You can't go and request a bailout of trillions in secret give-aways from the fed for instance when you screw up and lose everything.


    Americans tend to be pretty stupid and your post pretty much re-enforces how oblivious americans are to how other people experience the world.

    Lastly biology, every human body has to construct an understanding of the world given limited biological resources, hence each persons reality is not shared but seriously different. Each persons mind in comparisons to another is like parallel universes side by side with one another. This is why so many people have so many problems understanding one another.

    People have different ideas of what to value and how to live according to the pecularities of their nervous system they are largely unaware of.
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      Aug 11 2012: Robust discussion, except i'm from Australia. I think you make a broad statement that Americans tend to be pretty stupid, i've observed the same type of things in Europe, Asia and we'll, pretty much everywhere.
      • Aug 13 2012: My apologies but australia is still a western country ('americanized'). Any country that works on capitalism is definitely a european/american/western to some extent.

        I should have said human beings as a whole are pretty stupid, but TED usually attracts overwhelming north american audience (by sheer population size and because of english).

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