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?

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    Aug 14 2012: In a recent study at Columbia on "Subjective Wellbeing" - the new name for Happiness - Jeffrey Sachs verified that Happiness is not that clear cut anymore as you have outlined above. You can't say that 600 million Indians who earn less than a dollar a day, have no toilets or clean water, rarely have electricity, no real healthcare are actually happy when you see them smile.They have developed a survival mechanism that is accepting of their lot - but that can't be defined as happiness. It is also a myth that people who are economically well off are unhappy - they may struggle with purpose or meaning or dissatisfaction or depression in life - but they are not by any subjective standards, unhappy. People from lower economic strata tend to appear happier as survival mechanisms for coping with their situation make them so but they suffer equally if not in greater numbers from chronic diseases, stress, envy, jealousy, self-abuse and more. Genuinely happy people tend to have a few traits in common - whether they are well off or not - they tend to be genuinely compassionate and kind, they always seek the good of others, they are positive people, they have practices that help them stay detached (meditation, prayer, nature, family time), they see beauty and magic around them, they realize that life has ups and down and they remain balanced, they laugh and smile a lot and they tend to exude a loving joyful kindness. This is true of millionaires and paupers. So if you read or listen to Matthieu Ricard or Sachs then you will realize that happiness is subjective and not an issue necessarily of class or wealth or lack thereof. It can actually be cultivated or trained for by anyone.
    • Aug 18 2012: Now the next question is, what is healthy? Is it also subjective wellbeing?
  • Aug 12 2012: Part 2:

    As we all know, human beings are social animals. We need each other for survival, to fulfill our desires, to meet our needs. The issue of happiness, and a lack of it, is an issue of connection. Happiness, as any elderly person will tell you, is not achieved in the acquisition of “things.” It is achieved through human relationships.

    So here is the answer to the question of, “Is overall happiness declining?” Yes, it is. It is declining, depression globally is rising, etc. as has been well reported because we are becoming more connected but have not valued this rising connection between us.

    The good thing is that the framework is there. We’re already connected, economically, etc. in ways that prior generations simply weren’t. And if the framework is there, then all that need now be applied is the proper intention: To begin to value our interconnection and interdependence, and thus solve our happiness dilemma.
  • Aug 12 2012: My comment in 2 parts due to length.

    Part 1:

    I know you speak from experience. But the scientific data does not support what you have said. Overall, people mostly share similar levels of happiness. And yet, a question persists today, “Is overall happiness declining?”

    It has been well proven through research that income does not make you any happier than a person who only earns a modest wage. The real difference lies in a person who cannot meet his/her needs and a person who can. This is the severe difference that exists within global society.

    But what is happiness? Have we yet to define it, conclusively? Is there an agreed upon definition for what it is? There isn’t. It is this vague term which we each use to describe the overall state which we feel.

    Each of us is governed, as psychology is quick to point out, by a pain vs. pleasure principle. We move towards what gives us pleasure, away from what gives us pain, and calculate the acquisition of a future pleasure based off of the effort/energy/pain that we will be required to endure in order to acquire the future pleasure.

    But there is something else here, something which we are mostly unfamiliar with, which ties directly into this modern question, “Is overall happiness declining?”

    As many a sociologist has pointed out in recent years, we are witnessing a gradual decline in community. But strangely, as those such as cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch PhD report: ““What I would consider the tragedy of our times is that we are more connected than ever, and yet, we don’t realize it and don’t truly live it.”

    The idea that others are more happy, getting back to your comment, is common. Each person usually thinks that, “The grass is greener on the other side.” But factually, the problem of humanity becoming more interconnected, but increasingly more isolated (as far as how we treat that growing connection) seems to be key to understanding the question of, “Is overall happiness declining?”
  • Aug 11 2012: This is a difficult question to answer, but in fact we are only desire.
    Every second we recieve a desire and once the desire is filled,the happiness we felt in the beginning ,slowly flows away and what is left is a feeling of emptyness.

    So you could say that people who are succesfull in life have a stronger desire and struggle with ungoing unhappiness because they already achieved mostly every goal they set for themselves.
    They discovered that once they reached the goal,the fullfilling and happiness they recieved in the beginning is gone, because the desire is filled.
    Its like when we are hungry,in the beginning the food taste delicious,after a while its so,so once we are fullfilled we dont want it anymore. So we recieve a fullfilling of the desire.
    But there is a possibility to change this feeling of emptyness ,and this we can achieve by fullfilling other peoples desires, so through this different mindset to recieve the happiness from fullfilling your desire into give the happiness in fullfilling the desire of someone else. A person dont feel this ongoing unhappiness because from the start it was not his or her intention to fullfill the own desire,but the desire of someone else. This creates a great connection among people and could eventually change the world.
  • Aug 12 2012: I've been in many different states of having and not having for very prolonged periods of time and in each economic state there are just different challenges For one thing, we need to separate satisfaction from happiness and perhaps define happiness. Happiness for humans is much more than what we have or do not have. Happiness correlates to our ability to feel a sense of purpose. If I have all my desires fulfilled, at the end of the day I"m asking myself,"is this all there is?", because being an active and intelligent person, I want a challenge no matter what the challenge may be, as long as I'm physically healthy enough to meet even a part of that challenge, I feel a kind of happiness. One can also be happy because he/she has a predictable set of variables and few major choices each day. And, the simpler one's life is the easier it is to arrive at this. Some of the happiest people I have every known I met when I was a social worker for developmentally disabled adults. Their happiness came about because their desires were simple and easily achieved. They became sullen when their daily goals and desires were frustrated by any number of obstacles, including money. Happiness is totally subjective and what it takes to be happy depends on one's level of maturity and intelligence. A nuclear scientist can be happy with a simple life but he/she will also have to have a mental challenge to sharpen his/her finely tuned mind . I can be happy knowing that my life will be a growth process that includes both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. We could call this happiness and unhappiness. I'm understanding that this is a part of the way we experience growth and that we all go through this together, so for me there's a happiness in discovering how we operate. I no longer feel conflicted because I understand that this idea that there is some kind of arrival at a final destination called happiness is simply a fabricated goal and doesn't reflect natural reality.
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      Aug 11 2012: Hi again Kate!
      Good points....worldview...attitude....humor....contentment.....peace within our "self"....caring....sharing......balance!

      I also did the "blind" experiment once, with a blindfold. I agree....we are aware that it is a temproary situation which we create, so it's not quite the same. Nevertheless, there is something to learn from the experience. One big thing I learned was an increased sense of gratitude for eye sight, which many take for granted.
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    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.
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      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.
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    Aug 9 2012: Hi Tony.
    It has been said that we cannot serve God & Mammon.
    We are sold the idea that if we obtain sufficient material possessions that we will be happy & content. However this is a lie, material possessions just give us a hunger for more. Many go through their whole life without the penny dropping; it doesn't work. Mammon just doesn't deliver. Millions have found that God does, but that's not what we want to hear.

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      Aug 10 2012: I would replace god, with a "true sense of self, combined with a reverance for life, and the world you are lucky enough to have a place in"... but, I actually have to say, I pretty much agree that faith... Figured this one out before science : )
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      Aug 10 2012: That's what I love about Ted. It's remarkable who you find common ground with if the right topic comes up.
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    Aug 9 2012: HI Tony. I hope this is meaningful and on topic.
    I feel like I am living a quite different life since I had 2 clots hit my brainstem after a surgery. I had to learn to walk and talk again but it is more than that. I feel like my thought processes are similar but different. My old insecurities are gone, and I am different. The constant internal dialogue is missing, I am suddenly more certain where I had little certainty before and everything is more funny.
    I was a prettty smart and serious woman before. Now I am a smart and very humouous chick who can see the funny side of everything. I may be less to some people, maybe - not really sure now that I am more fully recovered but I am a sexier creature in my new body and I am more in everyway to myself.( although I do miss being as graceful as I was - I am somewhat clumbsy now - but that is still improving).
    I am definately a happier person and I do not know how that could make any sense.
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      Aug 9 2012: You've told the story many times before, but it's always still a good one to listen to :)
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      Aug 10 2012: Hi Debra

      Thats such a perfect answer, out of every adversity comes an equal or greater benefit. ONLY if we have the courage and grace to find the benefits, i wish you every happiness.

      Tony :)
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        Aug 10 2012: What a gracious reply! Thank you.
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    Aug 20 2012: Perhaps it has to do with the idea of Prospect Theory (I recommend looking up Daniel Kahneman if you have not already). A loss is twice as painful as a gain is rewarding. Those who have everything only have things to lose. Therefore their collective utility would be decreasing at a much faster rate than it would be increasing. And often our emotions are based on changes in our current state. So while someone who has a lot may have a large aggregate utility, their mood would be affected by the change, or movement of that utility. Someone who has very little has much more room to gain, and therefore the derivative of their utility would be more often positive.
  • Aug 19 2012: Those happiness seekers out there have it all wrong. Looking for happiness is not the way to find it. It is not "out there" somewhere. Happiness comes from within. It is a state of mind or an attitude, a filter through which we view life. Simply put, it is a feeling. If people only realized this, they could go through some steps and find it. Happiness is a choice and so many people have become accustomed to being bored or looking in the wrong places or thinking it is somewhere else but never in the present moment. And many people are sadly just too lazy to put out the effort to possess it. They stay stuck and roll around in their muck for years. If we can stop and really look at ourselves from within, we can learn a few things and then take action to make some changes. Those changes can lead to happiness.

    There is an experiement going on in my life and head right now. I'm finding this to be an amazing experience, one that is allowing me to be much more fulfilled and happy. Three of the things I am doing are looking at what I am good at, looking at what makes me feel exhilerated and excited and looking at where I spend my time (the postive time experiences, not the negative). It's an experiment that will have a different answer for everyone. Once you figure those things out, you move forward and put your time and energy into those things. I'm not suggesting it's easy.

    Of course life doles out horrible things, death, pain, poverty, stress and such. Those things do take a toll on us and we would not be human if we did not react to them. Learning to take these things in, embrace them for what they are, then let them go, to roll with the punches so to speak, is a healthy way to get past them. Staying stuck in all that angsty stagnation will get you nowhere. One has to be willing to accept what comes along and then let it go. We all have our demons, our nightmarish life events. We just have to move past them and put our focus elsewhere. We do have a choice.
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    Aug 17 2012: Everybody has some hard exeriences in life. The one who are happy are the ones, who survived. If we get the experiences, that we are able to overcome problems and mistakes, we become stronger and optimistic. We live more counciously, too. We stay in the moment. By being concentrated in the present, we also have less time to doubt, I think.
    • Aug 18 2012: Fail early and get it all over with. If you learn to deal with failure. . . You learn to breath again when you embrace failure as a part of life, not as the determining moment of life
      -Rev. William L. Swig
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    Aug 15 2012: Hi Tony, I'm not sure what scientific data there is to support the idea that the disadvantaged are happier than the advantaged.

    From what I have read from Martin Seilgman and others indicates that those struggling to survive to find enough food etc are the least happy.

    But once your basic needs are met additonal wealth does not make as much difference as we might expect. In fact many people have a setpoint and range of positive emotions that don't change that much when their circumstances improve.

    So I suggest in part the cheerful people are cheerful - rich or poor - blind or sighted.

    Perhaps if you are blinded or similar you either accept it and get on with it and perhaps some overcompensate or learn something from it in addition to their natural range.

    I guess some people with physical handicaps have different expectations to others, they are more satisfied with the basics - security, human companionship etc. No sense of failure, or missing out on all the consumer rubbish.

    My guess is it doesn't matter how well off you are if you have no friends no love that is a tough emotional place to be in.

    Again, some data to support this idea would be useful.
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      Aug 15 2012: Seligman is an excellent source for this discussion. He is the father of Positive Psychology and he has a website with a ton of questionairres that are really enlightening for anyone interested in this topic. You can actually contribute to current research there.
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        Aug 15 2012: Thanks Debra I'll check it out.
        I have one of his books
  • Aug 14 2012: We live in our own creation. Whether heaven or hell it is our creation… so accept it. Accept that no one but you are responsible for your being. Nobody else is responsible. Throwing the responsibility onto God, fate, society, economic structure, on your past lives, or on others will get you nowhere. Own it, own every part of it for it is only way to move, to change, to go beyond the obvious. The only cause of hell, the only cause of misery is you and nothing else. Except you, nobody can cause it. And it is not the past; you are creating it each moment.
    One goes on creating the hell, and then hates it, and then wants to get rid of it. And even while you are trying to get rid of it you are still creating it. We are so unconscious. So be watchful. It is only then you will be able to find how
    you create it. To become aware is the greatest moment in one’s life, because from there transformation begins, from there a new life starts…
    Take the responsibility of whatsoever you are, and wherever you are. That to me is the first step… make it your responsibility and stop blaming others and stop trying to find causes somewhere else. It is that easy. Stop thinking less of you and stop looking for causes and the need to change. Stop the blame - the society is wrong, the social structure is wrong, the political ideology is wrong, the government is wrong, the economic structure is wrong – everything is wrong except you. You are a beautiful person fallen into everything wrong. What can you do? Then you have to suffer, and then you have to learn how to tolerate. Stop!
    That’s what people have been doing for centuries – learning tolerance. I don’t recommend tolerance; on the contrary I am a proponent of transformation. Stop tolerance and go ahead with transformation. It is only through transformation that you will begin… begin to understand… begin to be you. Whatsoever it is, watch each step... If it is anger watch it; if it is sexuality, watch it; if it is greed, watch it... watch! On
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    Aug 12 2012: I suppose being "disadvantaged" or "underprivileged " or "marginalized" or etc. allows one to be more attuned to things they should be thankful for.

    There are no extremes of over-arching rule though. There are always exceptions to the rule from both sides of the fence in anything. Privileged or advantaged folks may or may not be happy/thankful as underprivileged/disadvantaged ones may or may not be miserable.

    I have seen and experienced very depressing and horrid acts and situations... It just seems to me as I observe and learn from others and as I have experienced personally that when you are down, there is simply more real or potential things to be grateful about.

    When in the dark, people have more propensity to see even the faintest glimmer.

    As coupled and interrelated they may be in several perspective. a simple disconnection and qualification between contentment, gratitude, and happiness really helps.
  • Aug 12 2012: Tony, great stuff!! seems to me the more we got, the more we have to live up to.

    Have you ever seen this?
    It's an eye-opener about what we can do with what we do not have :)
    • Aug 12 2012: An eye-opener indeed! Amazing,, not only a lesson in what can be done with great lack of the "tools" we use each day and so often take for granted, but an exemplary display of obvious happiness. Happiness in spite of what would seem devastating. Perhaps because this bright young man's world began with this state of "being without" that he has organically adapted himself to the world, and has CHOSEN to be happy. Here, a lesson again, in deciding to be joyful!
      Thank you Adriaan
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    Aug 11 2012: The analogy that has been made is a good example of self-contentment. All our happiness and sadness depends on many factors but self-contentment plays an important role. Our society, behavior, attitude and vision influence our outlook as well as perception for situations and circumstances of our life. This in turn instills confidence or negativity as depends on that individual. Hence, it happens that even after everybody else think that you have no reason to be sad, you perceive things differently and for someone whose circumstance do not indicate happiness, one might be happier because of his perception.
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      Aug 11 2012: I agree Iti, that self-contentment can play a very important role in our lives. For me, contentment is an underlying foundation, while happiness, sadness, humor, joy, frustration, confusion, pain, curiosity, pleasure, and all other emotions and feelings flow through the contentment. For me, everything is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve, so I am content with the life adventure, and content in experiencing everything:>)

      When I was younger, I sometimes imagined myself as a fish, trying to swim in a tumultous sea, without control, or choices. I was afraid of the bigger fish, afraid of the fisherman's hook, afraid of the currants....etc. I learned that I can swim with ease. I know what the fishermans hook looks like, and I can swim around it, I can go with the flow of the current, and it will not harm me. I am aware of the bigger fish, and I can swim around them. This, for me, is contentment:>)

      As you insightfully say, our attitude and vision influence our life experience. With each new experience, we have the opportunity to learn, thereby increasing our confidence, which contributes to more contentment:>)
  • Aug 11 2012: I believe rich, famous and good looking people who have everything and who can get anything in life are not happy because of the fear to sustain their social status as well as fear of losing it one day. For E.g. Michael Jackson had everything he needed fame, money what not, but still deep inside he was an unhappy person. I remember news some years back in India where an Indian Supermodel hung herself because she had developed thyroid disorder and gained lots of weight. SO I guess people who have nothing have nothing to lose (lines by Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic). I see people on indian streets have sound sleep than people who live in air conditioned homes….
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    Aug 10 2012: The level of poverty and hardship in Nigeria would be unimaginable to most citizens of the world. But people are so happy as if there are no problems. There is so much optimism and enthusiasm.

    In the developed world, despite our level of sophistication; our fancy gadgets and the abundance of food and endless pleasures, people still commit suicide! People are sad and depressed!

    I think some people have found wisdom; with the knowledge of the fact that happiness should not be sought in the future, or in the advancement of science, or in the flashy and fake lifestyle of Hollywood stars.
    Some people are wise enough to know how to be happy; while some people are still looking for happiness like those folks looking for El-Dorado.

    We should be grateful for every good thing that we have.
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    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.
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      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.
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        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!
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      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.
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    Aug 9 2012: I'm sure there are those who focus too much on what they don't have, and there are those who focus on what they do have.

    I think a lot of material things are misconceptions of happiness. A lot of values can be found by admiring oneself and one's peers. Some happiness can also just be found in art, enjoyment of games, or just curious fascinations of things (these aren't really materialistic to me).

    A guy at my work told me that he tries to teach his kids to not specifically enjoy the material things, but enjoy the experiences anything has to offer.
    • Aug 9 2012: I once read, "Contentment is the greatest wealth". Be happy with your lot in life. However, be ambitious for the right (unselfish) reasons. Off load those stresses and conflicts that result from material hoarding and greed. Be happy to find resolution to conflict, resolution to problems or challenges and be glad to find ways to help people with the higher values.

      As you imply, James, we can be happy relating well and if we don't enjoy the experiences of finding peace in experiences, then we might need a few changes. If one's life is all about me, myself, and I, then set new priorities.

      Your comments are worth spreading, James.
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        Aug 9 2012: Thanks Mark!

        All in a day's work :P
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      Aug 9 2012: This is very good advice dear James:>)

      What we focus on expands....where attention goes, energy flows....enjoy the experiences....yes, I agree:>)

      I believe life is about learning, growing and evolving as an individual, and as part of the whole, so there is ALWAYS something about each and every situation to appreciate.

      I totally agree with Mark, that "Contentment is the greatest wealth", and my experience confirms that appreciation and gratitude are a big part of contentment.

      "Be happy with what you have and you will have plenty to be happy about..."
      (Irish proverb)

      I agree Mark...James' comments are indeed worth spreading....he's a great guy, and I have a date with him....he promised on another comment thread!!! LOL:>)
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        Aug 9 2012: so this means I do get a cookie ;)
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          Aug 9 2012: OBVIOUSLY James, you already KNOW and EMBRACE the idea of what we focus on expands!!! Keep it up and you'll have a whole bag of cookies:>) LOL!
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        Aug 9 2012: nice :D
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    Aug 22 2012: That's a good--and deep--question. Maybe it is true that those who do without seem to be happier on the whole, but there's also some quote I've read about how everyone is dealing with their own struggles and thoughts beneath the surface. I think people handle them in different ways--some people are just more positive about the outlook overall, even if they are struggling with things that they may not necessarily share with others. Some people are more negative and I feel like negativity can breed a certain unhappiness about life.

    This is especially interesting to me considering a current situation in my own life.
  • Aug 22 2012: Attainment gives us happiness.
    A glass of water always tastes better when you are thirsty.
    We are happy not because of what we have, but what we gain.
    any thoughts?
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      Aug 22 2012: Isaac,
      I believe happiness is not only created by what we gain, but also by what we give. If our goal is to attain and gain for ourselves, I suggest that the energy used in "attaining" all that we can gain, may get in the way of true happiness/contentment. If we believe "what we gain" will create happiness in our lives, that may be our focus, and we miss another important my perception.

      To use your example.....a glass of water may taste better when we are thirsty. We also have the opportunity to appreciate and be grateful for every single glass of water we have...yes? If we are happy/unhappy only when we have, or do not have something, we set ourselves up for depending on that something/someone to create happiness for us, rather than making the choice to be happy regardless of the circumstances. Make any sense?
      • Aug 23 2012: Colleen, Hi
        you know those sorts of people who spend their lives chasing status symbols such as money, and material wealth, only to find that that was not what they wanted in the first place?
        I agree with you in that instance, that this is not healthy.
        However, you cannot deny that when a child gets a toy, they will find happiness, if only breifly.
        We need to find happiness in the smaller aspects of life that give us a bit of pleasure each day from small acheivements
        Otherwise we feel bad trying to have a big gain, and failing day after day, only suceedind rarely.
        it is in gaining, not having that makes us happy.
        That is why I would recommend playing music, or gardining, as you can see small improvement often
        I would say contentment is appreciating what you have, knowing life without it.

        PS: I may be making a fool of myself, but I believe that we feel good helping one another because we believe, in our subconscience, that it will reciprocate back to us. Thus we feel good.
        I do not know whether you are religeous or not, but from an evelotionary perspective, this makes (sort of) sense. your sentiments?
  • Aug 20 2012: What is the happiness? We must distinguish this therm from sense of well-being, sense of gratification. Happiness is a short time sense due to love, freedom and so on. Sometimes we need no reason for that. Find your happiness! or, when you really want happiness, you can get it! It's just ridiculous. How can you find your happiness, when you don't know who you are. We are absolutely determined from our family, social environment, religion and education or just from our neuromediators, and when we grow up, we already know, whom we want to be. For example we see a successful man from TV, who has many of fans and we want to be like him, because he has a form of happy man and this form attract us, but it is just form - illusion. Our wishes comes out from illusions like that. in reality we are striving for superiority, we have thirst for power and we want to be on the top of society. We call that ''seeking happiness''. On the other side we are managed by fear - not to be a loooser. As l said, happiness is a short time sense, which happens to us occasionally and in most of cases we learn from that nothing.
    The example about blind man - Yes, there are some people who are happy without reasons. Maybe their brain works not like ours (hypersecretion of serotonin) or they are creating their illusions and hard believe its reality without questions, without doubt, without rationalism, logic and pragmatism. Maybe we also must do like them?
  • Aug 20 2012: Happiness, it seems to me, is a result of the stories we tell ourselves and the stories others tell us and how well we manage to make them a reality. For instance, I've passed most of my life doing work I hated. Why did I do it? I told myself it was because I needed the money. But what did I need the money for? To run a car, pay my rent or mortgage, to save up for a holiday, buy nice clothes or the latest gadget and to go out with my friends. Others told me I needed to secure my future, to build up a reserve, to plan for old age or a family, to impress others, to compete and win. When I tried to imagine what I really wanted to do, what would make me happy, I would become confused by the competing stories and end up taking the job that I thought would best satisfy them. Then I finally realised. I either didn't need most of those things or I could get them without money, or at least with very little.
    Instead of living in a big house out of town and running a car to drive into work I moved to a small flat in the centre of town and sold my car. With the money I saved I paid off my debts and refused bank loans and credit cards. I quit my old job and began teaching English as a foreign language in my own home and in the homes of people within walking distance (I'm a Brit living in Spain, but that's another tale), i began to write, and I love it! I bought a bicycle and use it to go to the beach in my free time. I run to keep fit. I made a deal with my neighbours to share wifi thereby only paying a fifth of the normal. All these things plus a hundred other small decisions add up to increasing happiness for me, and strangely, increasing income.
    Of course life isn't perfect. But it's certainly a lot better and improving month on month. And really, all it took was a change in perspective, asking myself the right questions and being brave enough to just do it!
  • Aug 19 2012: I think it's a matter of scope. The privileged people are more likely to see what more is out there and feel they can attain it. They see these new things and they want to reach for them, and they feel if they don't reach that new thing, they aren't happy. Whereas the people who aren't as privileged see these things and think they can't attain them so they choose to not base their happiness on that new thing. Everything is about getting ahead in life, whatever you medium for measurement of "getting ahead" is, be it material possessions, ideas, love. I would guess that the people who are more privileged end up measuring their worth by material possessions because those things can be easily attained, while those less privileged end up basing their happiness on things less material for lack of ease of attaining. Because there will always be new things to attain, new things in which gauge your happiness by, those more privileged will always be unhappy. However those basing their happiness on love, or ideas, or things of the more mental variety will find that there aren't new emotions being created. There is a more limited scope by which to base your happiness off of.

    I've also thought that those who aren't as privileged mentally are happy because they are blind to the strife of the world and how much it sucks, or the numerous problems there are at any rate.
  • Aug 18 2012: I believe, whole heartedly that it is a matter of perspective:

    I am suprised no one (as far as I skimmed) has referenced any of the following talks:
    The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says Rory Sutherland. At TEDxAthens, he makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness. (Filmed at TEDxAthens.)
    Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice.

    There are plenty more on the topic here but I believe in the concepts of these two men greatly!!
  • Aug 17 2012: Happiness is not made of matter....we all have it...we can find it in ourselves....
  • Aug 16 2012: In my experience, discussions of general happiness tend to gravitate into discussions of wealth. I suppose that is because we spend so much of our time on material matters.

    When I consider the people I know, the people who are unhappy are the people with bad relationships. If you are unlucky enough to be born into a malfunctioning family, your choices are bleak. You can drop all contact with the people you love, or keep going back to people who make you miserable. Many drug addicts have brothers and sisters.

    Perhaps one of the toughest situations is the married couple who would prefer to divorce but stay together for the sake of the children. I think this is a valid choice in some cases. Some parents can reach an agreement so that the children are not negatively affected by the lack of love between the parents. But you can hardly expect the parents to be happy. Imagine going without any intimacy or sex for years for the sake of your children. People do it. How many times have you heard of a happily married couple that got divorced the moment the nest was empty.

    I do not think happiness is just about attitude. Life is not that simple. Sometimes unhappiness is about keeping commitments that just turn sour. People make mistakes. When you make mistakes at a young age it can affect the rest of your life. There are religious women who stay in a marriage only because of their religious beliefs. These women consent to sex with their husbands because they believe it is their duty, and take no pleasure in the act. There are thousands of college grads that will be in debt for a decade or more, some for the rest of their lives. Some people marry the wrong person. Some people have children before they are ready. Maybe some people can live with these situations and maintain happiness, but I do not think everyone is capable of doing that.
  • Aug 16 2012: Hi Tony

    I don't think, at least these are my personal views and observations, that 'happiness' favor any side. It's an individual thing. I've found, the more I become conscious/aware the more I become unhappy. It's not a bad thing because I am happy that I am improving my awareness.

    My observations are that we live in difficult times, from a consciousness perspective, and this appears to be an emotional time for all, on whatever level. We are hard pressed toward becoming individually responsible and accountable for ourselves. Thus questioning our happiness.

    How does one define happiness? Is it a social thing, a financial thing, or an intrinsic thing? Within each category we can further question, what level should we achieve before we consider ourselves happy. It differs for everyone.

    Some things to consider that hinder happiness are the things we support, who is in support and rely on us, are we what we intended for ourselves.

    Unhappiness describes emotional pain so perhaps the answer lies in a quote I once read and follow to this day.
    "the pain we carry, is the love we withheld"
    • Aug 16 2012: I couldnt agree more with you Tony." I've found, the more I become conscious/aware the more I become unhappy. It's not a bad thing because I am happy that I am improving my awareness."
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    Aug 14 2012: In his wonderful book "Flow," Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, quotes Viktor Frankel, "…happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself."

    Professor Csikszentmihaly adds, "So how do we reach this elusive goal…it…begins with achieving control over the contents of our consciousness."

    He later writes, "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience (happiness?) is thus something that we 'make' happen.

    Professor Csikszentmihaly adds, “For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves. Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant when they occur.”

    I humbly add, happiness is fleeting, temporary, replicable. Attaining happiness requires effort. Think of a teacher, chef, carpenter, care-taker, musician, athlete, scientist, etc. Worthwhile performance, life endeavor, requires enormous effort, dedication, persistence. Thus, when happiness occurs, I relish it. Revel in it. Bask in it’s glow. Then it’s back to work.

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      Aug 15 2012: More fantastic sources cited above.
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    Aug 14 2012: I was taught that what you earn in life has value, what is given to you does not. I was also taught that patience is a virtue.

    I know of many people who wanted it all now, got themselves into debt, only to watch everything slowly fade away. I only purchased what I could afford at the time. As a result, I have watched my life grow with each passing year. I didn't get the latest gadget, but only what I needed. I chose those things that were useful to me, not just nice to have. Today, I still have many possibilities awaiting me while many others are struggling just to hold on to what they have.

    My father taught me that what you learn to do will help you have things that others pay dearly for. I have a TV stand that is one of a kind, and better than what you can buy in a store. It cost me time rather than money (I just had to pay for the wood and hardware).

    People think that things make them happy. So they try to keep up with the Jones'. But the novelty wears off after a short while, all the while you have to pay the bills and keep up with the maintenance. Before long, you are drowning in the world you thought would make you happy. By creating things, I watch it come into existence, so the pleasure of it lingers in the satisfaction of knowing that I created this.

    People greet me with warmness because of who I am. I refuse to put people down. I refuse to take advantage of people. I refuse to pretend that I am something special. I believe in mutual cooperation and treating others as equals. It has earned me a reputation that money can't buy. Despite all this, I can't teach this to people. It is something that you can only learn by living it.
  • Aug 14 2012: Nice one Tony…..Definately! people would benefit from living as say a blind person for a 3 month term so as to develop other more enduring drivers to happiness. This act can be found in several religious systems. Where I am from "Spritual Baptist" practice "Moarning" where the candidate is blind folded for several days in a dark space. After which they emerge with an insight to their purpose. The same is done with silence by some others. Some "fast" from speech or remove themselves unto stillness for insight sake. This is nothing new.
  • N SHR

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    Aug 13 2012: I think only in times of hardship, you find out about the things that really matter in your life.
    Things in modern world are mostly distracting. Many things that we work day and night to get, are just distractions... It would be good to be forced to realize you can live without them, and stop wasting precious time chasing those... That precious time that most of us lose, like time we can spend with parents or children before they go out of our life..
  • Aug 13 2012: Happiness, does not come from outside of you, it is inside. it is your connection to your true self, which brings happiness. When you are connect to your true self and you are serving, you are living with purpose/happiness.

    Material things can be a distraction , preventing or hampering connecting to your true self, purpose and happiness.

    And understand and accepting life is short so enjoy and find the humor in everything, it just isn't that complicated.
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    Aug 11 2012: Tony, Lets isolate the word "advantages" . To those born to the purple there is but one way top go and that is down. Those who have nothing have everything to gain and nothing to lose the direction is up. We live in a material world. If you live on a estate, have a roller, dress in suits made on Broad Street, and are successful in business you are looked up to and admired. The pressure is on you to produce. If you do your a chip off of the ole block. If you do not you are a black sheep and a disgrace to the family. Your evey move is covered by the media. Your thoughts and conversations are analyzed and disected. Your friends and relatives are suspect. The feds run a file on you. This could become real stress. Drinking, drugs, divorce, death are common.

    Me, I can stand up and state my political beliefs, drink a beer (if I drank), get a ticket for speeding, and even spend the night in jail and the only thing that would happen is my friends would all laugh at me for a while and still be my friends. No mention on the 6 O'clock news or a hiccup on the stock market. No pressure there.

    These advantages really apply to the old money ... not the neo riche that did a rap record last month.

    In summary it is more about perception, expectations, and demands from family and especially the media.
    That would make it hard to be happy and easy to be stressed out.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Aug 12 2012: When you know you have "enough" life seems more inviting. Everyone has a different idea of what is enough though. Add to that we have an acute sense of fairness built into our psyches. This sense of fairness is often humbled by the inequity we see in lifestyles and also by the means some will use, to protect extravagance. Just as there is a prejudice against very poor people there is also the same against the rich, often these people end up scared and alone with only their money and material things to comfort them.

      Take a good person born into money, they might feel the need to change something once it was discovered how much of that money was made or why it isn't used for the good of all mankind. Sadly the easiest and most likely thing to change is simply the attitude of this person towards the world.
  • Aug 11 2012: In my opinion, the ultimate happiness is having trust in yourself as the driver of your life.

    For myself, I often struggle with relationships and feeling disconnected from other people. Sometimes this does lead me to be very sad and to forget all of the wonderful things in my life (I try not to show this sadness to others). However, over the past few years I've tried to "put myself out there" more, yielding some very positive (and of course less positive at times) results. Facing this struggle and coming through it has brought me a greater sense of happiness because I trust myself more. I understand my strengths, and I understand that I can't be strong at everything, so while I try to improve some of my weaknesses, some of them I just let go. Striving to be your best self, which will inevitably cause you to go through struggles and times of discomfort, leads to a higher sense of satisfaction and self-trust, which will give you a greater sense of peace, which is very important for happiness.
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    Aug 11 2012: I believe happiness in life is constant struggle for everyone, but those who are at a disadvantage, whether it be money, health, or family; seemingly have relied on stronger ties with people, and developed a greater sense of empathy and humility. There comes a point whem people can accept they don't have certain advantages that other people have, and when that happens the disadvantage becomes a strength; a strength that is based on who you have, instead of what you have.
  • Aug 11 2012: Because......
    1 Lack of gratitude..../ we just take everything for granted
    2 Some people don't even know what is happiness and think that it exists somewhere far to reach.
    3 Our goal is too high to achieve. And when it becomes some kind of ideal fantasy.
    4 we don't realize we're lucky.
    5 we have no idea how to enjoy what we're doing.
    6 we quite often hesitate to be sincere and devoted just because of out of fear or being dubious of someone.
    --> lack of trust
    7 we screw up the relationships we have and don’t know how to fix it.
    8 we don't want to let things go 'cause we believe we can't do it. Or we try to, but it seems to us that it’s impossible to do it.
    9we are being too pessimistic or too optimistic.
    10 We forget how to smile because of unnecessary worries.
    11 we don't spare our time to play with kids
  • Aug 11 2012: Good subject and one most of us could contemplate more often. I think much of the unattainable nature of happiness has to do with one simple truth.

    Happiness can't be seen as a goal to strive for, if it is then it will always be around the next corner or under the next rock. It's often found when you stop all the comparative judgements in your mind and just know you are breathing and alive. If you really need something to think about, then just be where you are and move some random item around you, just 1 inch. Then realize you are made of the same basic material and be amazed at your inexplicable and miraculous ability to consciously affect your environment. Remember, you aren't a person adrift in the universe, you are the universe come to life.

    We can forget this no matter what walk of life we come from, actually we are often conditioned into denying it from a young age.
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    Aug 11 2012: Maybe people with less have a fake it to make it mentality?

    This video was interesting and is where I extracted my idea:

    Enjoy. =)
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      Aug 11 2012: GREAT video Derek!!!

      I suggest "fake it to make it" is a good place to start. Once we change our reality, it becomes natural, enjoyable, and there is no reason to "fake" anything:>)
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        Aug 11 2012: This video was borrowed from one of your comments recently! So thanks! =)

        True, it becomes more than "fake" after you realized that it has become true happiness. =)
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          Aug 11 2012: I KNOW where you got it my friend Derek. I may be old, but there is still a little bit of gray matter working up there!!! LOL

          Here is another my humble perception!

          Dan Gilbert speaks about "synthetic happiness" and genuine happiness. To me, it's the same thing...practice....practice....practice....until it becomes a natural part of us:>)

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        Aug 11 2012: Practice makes "perfect" or a better substitue for the word; Practice makes improvements. =)
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        Aug 12 2012: Hello again Colleen,

        It seems after watching the tedx I found it to be really deep and a bit funny and confusing at the same time. =P

        I think I get it, but all those graphs and those psychological references really jumbles my understanding. Though, ultimately the conclusion seems to make plenty of sense. We just have to choose a road that is face-paced and unchangeable?! =P

        Did I misconstrue the conclusion? What did you take from this tedx?
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          Aug 12 2012: Hi Derek,
          Not sure what you mean by face-paced and unchangeable. Do you mean fast-paced?
          I also do not get your reference to choosing a road that is unchangeable.

          I watched it quite some time ago, and I feel that Dan Gilbert encourages the idea that our perception or attitude forms our reality....that acceptance of change is an important part of the process. In my perception, it is a similar message to Swami Dayananda Saraswati...delivered in a very different way:>)
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        Aug 14 2012: OMG! Face-paced! haha! I meant fast-paced. =P

        Unchangeable as in one of his examples with the picture developement students at harvard had to choose one of their 2 developed photos of near and dear memories. One group was asked they could pick one and had several days to change their minds, while the other group had to instantly decide and didn't have time to change their minds.
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      Aug 11 2012: I've heard another author refer to this as "acting yourself into a right way of thinking." Good advice.
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        Aug 11 2012: YES....YES.....YES Eric! Good point!!!

        Change our thinking, we change our feelings, and we may change our life experience:>)
  • Aug 11 2012: I really enjoyed reading this article. it's also such factual article. I personally believe that facing severe obstacles in life is mainly a major part of making powerful people. Realistically, experiences give us an awareness of how to overcome on problems and solve them.
  • Aug 23 2012: it is the fact that if we are given everything that we do not appreciate it, it was always there, and it will always be there becomes our mindset. When we start losing things (or not having them) we appreciate how much better it was without them and they aren't taken for granted anymore.

    For the example of your friend, he was probably profoundly upset when he lost his sight, but then realized that he only lost his sight, there is so much more he could lose.

    We always appreciate what we earn more than what we are given.
  • Aug 22 2012: The main thing to learn from this is that happiness is a choice. We often do things in our life because he think, "that will make me happy" when all we have to do is decide we already are. This seems like a pretty easy principle to grasp until we realize we aren't completely satisfied with "chosen happiness". This is when we learn that what we seek is JOY.

    What is the difference? Happiness is something decided, Joy is something earned.

    Joy is something that we fill when we have accomplished something. Why else would we continue to accomplish? Joy is, in my mind, the result of gaining the respect of (though not limited to) a peer. This also helps us understand why we envy those who are famous although we often don't wish to be famous ourselves. But fame, though confused as such, is not the same as respect. Respect is something you can gain from yourself as well as from others.The saying "you cannot love another if you do not love yourself" ties closely to respect and joy. If you do not respect yourself then you will not (or won't feel worthy) of others respect.

    In conclusion, happiness is not joy. Happiness is a choice while joy is earned. Joy is a result of earning respect. Gaining the respect of those who matter most to us will bring us the most joy. You are the most important person to yourself, so make sure you learn how to respect yourself.
  • Aug 22 2012: I'm not so sure it is "common". I long ago found that there many wealth people who enjoy life. I observed the comings and goings at the small county ariport where I was taking flying lessons. The place was full of small planes that were in constant motion. Thier owners using them to fly where ever they wanted to go for lunch, shopping, sking, or what ever. You never heard them complain just about the fun they had or were going to have.
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    Aug 22 2012: Just went back and saw this great talk that addresses this topic:
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    Aug 22 2012: Because those with advantages have time to dream about having more, which is something that can never be satiated. Whereas those who have far less don't have time to dream about nonsense.
    • Aug 22 2012: So those who have far less are happy, because they are so busy. Perhaps you could explain further.
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        Aug 23 2012: Busy surviving. In the West we simulate effort, survival and business, but somehow the fruits of our labor often seem empty.

        Yet you look at tribes such as the Kumbai, they appear to have "nothing" yet are less likely to suffer depression and suicide because they are too busy focusing on surviving. And at the end of each day, they get to be happy that they survived, unlike us because we can never seem to achieve enough.
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      Aug 22 2012: Luke,
      Do you think/feel it is "having more" that honestly creates happiness? That is not true for me, and many people in our world. There was a time when I was very financially secure, and now my finances are at poverty level. My underlying sense of happiness/contentment has not changed because my goal in life is not to "have more", but rather to "BE" more. I am very satisfied and grateful with what I have in each and every moment....that is a choice. There are so many people in our world that do not have clean drinking water, food and shelter, which I have, and for those precious gifts, I am grateful.
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        Aug 23 2012: Hi Colleen. I didn't say that at all. I said the opposite. The point I was making was that in Western culture we are taught to dream, to always aim higher and higher, which means we never have enough and therefore often do not realise what we have, meaning we don't see our present wealth, and so perpetuate unhappiness leading to depression and even suicide. "Work hard and you can achieve anything!" is often taught at schools and is a lie. Had they said "Discover your strengths and weaknesses and be the most YOU can be" then I think the west would be very different.
  • Aug 22 2012: My wife has lupus and suffers constantly. I choose to be happy and on some level I am successful. But just below that surface is a heartache that never goes away. There is a simple truth that keeps bouncing around my brain and comes to the surface at random moments. "She will never get better." When it pops up, my eyes tear and I am not remotely happy.

    I have not read anything in this conversation that I can apply to my experience.

    Addition: This was not intended as an invitation to a pity party. My primary concern is that many of the comments seem to me to be simplistic and completely focused on happiness as opposed to the sources for unhappiness. Life is complex, and for many it is difficult. This question deserves deep thought.
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      Aug 22 2012: Dear Barry,
      It is very difficult and challenging to see one we love in pain, and it is also difficult to know that we will some day be without that person in our lives. Two of my brothers have terminal cancer....they will never get better. I have been with them as they went through chemo, radiation, very invasive surgeries, and all the challenges that go with those treatments. They are both on "management" plans at this point....managing their lives in the best possible ways, so they can live a little longer.

      I often leave the room they are in, feeling overwhelmed and sad. Amazingly, it is THEIR attitude, determination and courage that contributes to my contentment in each and every moment. I know that they are on a journey, they make every effort to enjoy the last days on this earth to the best of their ability, and I will support them in that effort as much as I can.

      They were there to support me when I have been physically and emotionally challenged, and we all know that life can end at any time. The important thing is to enjoy and love each other while we are know you know this.

      My heart goes out to you and your wife, Barry, and I sincerely hope that I offer something that you might connect with. I know I am saying what you already know, and sometimes it helps to have reminders and know that someone understands. My loving energy is with you my friend.
      • Aug 22 2012: Thank you, Colleen. And my loving energy is with you, too.
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          Aug 22 2012: Thank you Barry....I appreciate that. I believe it is the willingness to care and love, while recognizing the preciousness of life in every moment, which allows us to be happy/content, even in very challenging circumstances. We are multi-sensory beings, and can experience happiness/saddness at the same time. As you say in your first choose to be happy. We can choose to focus on happiness, and we can choose to focus on the sadness of the situation.
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      Aug 22 2012: Dear Barry,
      Regarding your addition. Your comment did not feel like an invitation to a pity party to me, and that was not my intent either. You gave a very good example of feeling happy and sad at the same time, which I believe to be an element that some folks are missing in the pursuit of happiness/contentment. As I said in a previous comment, we are multi-sensory, multi dimensional beings, and can experience many thoughts, feelings, emotions at the same time.

      People often strive to hold onto the elated feeling of happiness, and often want the sad feelings to go away. We often hear....if I had more (fill in the blank) then I will be happy. You have mentioned that happiness is a choice, which I wholeheartedly agree with. By believing that "stuff", or circumstances in one's life will create more happiness, people give up their choice to be happy/content here and now. To me, contentment is part of the underlying foundation of who and what I am. No matter what the circumstances of my matter how much I have, or do not have, I will be content. My goal is to learn, grow and evolve, so with contentment as an underlying feeling, all other emotions flow through.
      • Aug 22 2012: Thanks Colleen,

        The addition had nothing to do with your reply; you seem to be more aware of the complexities of life than most of us. I was just checking the conversation again and my post seemed maudlin and incomplete. As I stated in another conversation, I wish for a world where people accept people for who they are, and we are all complicated. The complicated part seems to be difficult to remember.
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          Aug 22 2012: Thank YOU Barry,
          I was wondering if you perceived a "pity party" in any of my comments!!!

          I strive to be part of the world where/when people accept who we all are....more the same than different.

          Honestly Barry, I perceive us (humans) as more simple than complicated. When I let go of the perception of struggle, life feels more simple.

          I know I've said it many times before, and it has really helped me in my life experiences.
          "Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference"
      • Aug 22 2012: Now I wish I had never mentioned pity party.

        I just opened the conversation, my post was at the top, I read it again because sometimes a fresh reading provides a different perspective. I suppose this time I was in a better mood, because it seemed self-pitying and a bit pathetic and it did not specifically address the point I was trying to make. Again, your reply had nothing to do with the addition.

        You make a good point about simplifying life. We all do this to different extents, because dealing with the full complexity of life is not possible. I suppose this is another area of life that requires balance. If we simplify too much we are left dealing with stereotypes; if we simplify too little every problem becomes unsolvable. You seem to have found a good way to maintain balance. I think I am still working on this.
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          Aug 22 2012: Barry,
          My dear's ok! You pointed out different angles regarding the question of happiness.

          I agree with you that sometimes, our posts provide a different perspective, and perhaps that is a good example of happiness/unhappiness too? Sometimes, I'll write something at night, when I'm tired, and look at it from a totally different perspective in the morning, when rested. The really good thing is that WE CAN look at things differently.

          There are times when I feel very sad because of my brothers conditions, then I see them, they smile at me, and whatever sadness I feel disappears. Little "pity parties" for ourselves are not bad. It's when we hold onto the "pity party" for too long that it becomes a challenge.

          We can be talking about anything and everything from a person we love who is sick, to all the little things that happen to us in our daily routine.

          I had a bit of a pity party last night. I did a 30 mile bike ride yesterday, which was wonderful, AND the body was challenged, so I was looking for a nice HOT shower and relaxed evening. I had no hot water!!! Poor me!!!

          I'll tell ya that a cold sponge bath was not exactly soothing after several hours riding in the sun!!! Then I thought....well...I have water....that's something a lot of people do not have. I can put on warm clothes and jump into a cozy bed after the cold sponge bath.....warm cloths, cozy bed are things a lot of people in our world don't have. Pity party was over! BTW, the guy is fixing the water heater while we speak.....hopefully a hot shower will be had soon:>) If not, I'll adjust again:>)

          You are right....Balance.... acceptance..... go with the flow.... realize that some challenges are much, much more traumatic, and it is still possible to see the bright side of least some of the time.

          Yeah....I think/feel I have a pretty good balance most of the time....I've had lots of practice!
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      Aug 22 2012: Dear Barry, thanks for adding a very real component to this conversation.

      You know my story. I will not repeat it and bore you this time!
      I just try to remember that some kids had only dirt one day to play with and he or she decided she had a MUD PIE! Now that is optimism or something else fantastic!

      • Aug 22 2012: Hi Debra, You have a gift for getting right to heart of a matter and you have done it again with mud pie of all things. Thank you.
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    Aug 20 2012: Affluence breeds complacency which in turn breeds misery. I think in large part, happiness is positive feedback for activities that improve our living conditions. If our living conditions are satisfactory we are less inclined to be active in improving them, thus we are less likely to be happy. It is especially difficult for us to be engaged in constructive activities because the work we engage in in a modern economy is so detached from what we are naturally inclined to do. Our ancestors would seek food when hungry, build shelter when cold and socialise. The fruits of their labour were the actual results of their labour and they were surrounded by them. We work for money, and we are often uninterested in the work we do and its results. Those who must struggle in life are roused to action in a way that most others are not, they have challenges to overcome and overcoming them empowers them and brings them happiness.

    I'm not calling for a return to the short brutal lives of hunter gatherers. I think that the solution lies in creating more effective feedback mechanisms that encourage us to pursue our interests. I think gamification could be very useful as we attempt to effectively shift our interests from food and shelter to more complex concepts. Educators need to inspire students, empower them prepare them for the real world, not just pump them full of information. We should also be teaching people how to build things for themselves instead of just living with purchased possessions.

    There's obviously a lot more to say, about community, about greater purpose, about beauty in our daily lives. I think we'll get there though, mental health that attempts to work out what brings us contentment instead of just categorizing dysfunction will be a big step.
  • Aug 20 2012: O,K. Maybe I've been around too many NLPers , but happiness is a state. It can be easily anchored. I am not talking about someone with serious psychological problems. A healthy person can feel happy if the want to so feel. Of course, I'm not suggesting trying this in a time of crisis. Just normal healthy people in somewhat calm times.
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    Aug 20 2012: Neil Young sums this up nicely - "Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away"
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    Aug 19 2012: I personally believe that it's because once a human experiences such a large amount of success and convenience, we always want to reach for more, and will never be happy because they feel that they never have enough.
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    Aug 19 2012: It´s part of human nature, plus too much time to spare plus what I call FULL FRIDGE SINDROME. We just have too much stuff.
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      Aug 20 2012: That expression is one to which we can all relate.
  • Aug 19 2012: Seeking happiness may be proved the most dangerous chimera in the human life. Separating life by its emotional content of happiness – unhappiness tears us apart to pieces, and then we are trying to reject the unhappy parts of our life. Many people choose to evaluate their life by the number of achieved goals. They do the job for the fleeting, elusive moment of happiness when the goal is succeeded. And then another goal is offered to follow. I believe that life cannot be separated. Real and lasting happiness can only be come from a higher level of understanding and a point of view less egoistic. Everything in our life is an achievement, a unique moment of experience. Seeing life’s events as a curse or bless is what divides our internal world and makes us to hate or desire. We must see every act as a challenge, a challenge where we can submit with passion, devotion and awareness. Happiness is then every moment of experience during that, and not only an elusive glimpse at the end.
  • Aug 19 2012: The more we know how much we are capable of accomplishing, the bigger the responsibility we all feel to fulfill it. We have all this energy and after billions of years of evolution and hunting and gathering theres a need to do something! Its is from the reason and purpose we find in that something that comes happiness. People who have no substantial reason to be depressed, are usually just bored. Thats my take on it.
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    Aug 19 2012: The same question can be applied to people who were mistreated as children and grow up to exhibit the opposite personality traits. You have to experience severe low times in your life in order to truly appreciate the good things no matter how small they might be.
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    Aug 18 2012: Unhappiness is a state of mind that can be changed. We can choose to be happy with what we have/are or we can choose to be unhappy. I'm not saying it's easy to change from being unhappy to happy though - it requires dedication and hard work with lots of false starts and backsliding before an unhappy person wakes up and says 'I'm happy !'
    And then of course a happy person isn't ALWAYS happy but they do have a happier way of looking at the world and so don't stay unhappy for long. An unhappy person would do well to hire a life coach and get to the bottom of their unhappiness so they can start to turn it into happiness.
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      Aug 19 2012: What is a "happy way of looking at the world?" Optimistic view? Realistic view?
      What is a "unhappy way of looking at the world?" Pessimistic view? Irrational view?

      You can conclude that a positive person is a happy person. Now you can be a positive person but also be unhappy at the same time. Now I've never seen a negative person be truly happy. So being a positive individual will lead to being happy, but that's where it ends. It helps lead you to happiness but doesn't make you obtain it, because happiness is more intricate and complex then just being positive.
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    Aug 18 2012: There's really no one solid answer for this question. Experiencing pain, hardship, adversity or even just witnessing them will have a huge effect on you. It usually brings you closer and happier with yourself and those around you. People that have everything usually don't experience this as often as a person who has nothing or very little.
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    Aug 18 2012: I think it is easy to answer:

    (1) Happiness must be the short time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping one's DNA alive. Or, there is no human in the world.
    (2) For the rich to make "a-step-better" needs more effort.
    (3) For the poor to make "a-step-better" needs less effort.

    Am I right?
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    Aug 18 2012: I think it is very easy! Just make things a very, very litttle better step by step continueously. Then, anybody will be happy continueously, too.

    This is because that "Valid happiness must be the short time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping one's DNA alive. Or, there is no human in the world."
  • Aug 18 2012: There are many contributors towards happiness. I have not seen a correlation between people with less advantages being happier, or visa versa. They both exist.

    Having a lack in basic needs makes it more challenging to enjoy existence.
    Having a lack of advantages can, for some people, provide the incentive to look inward for happiness.

    Having both outer needs addressed, and the ability and desire to cultivate inner skills, is the best combination.

    What does it take for each of us to develop introspection, calmness, respect for ourselves and others, and other inner attributes which are necessary to happiness?
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      Aug 18 2012: There is certainly research in this area. Martin Seligman's TED talk is an example, sharing that the primary factor correlated with happiness is our satisfaction with the people with whom we are socially connected, including family and friends. Income beyond the level of basic sustenance makes no difference to people's happiness.
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        Aug 22 2012: Yes Fritzie. This is though,a big world and those without loved ones for whatever reason, loss through divorce or through death are NOT condemned to unhappiness. Taking the skills one once had or the new ones they cultivate to make a new life- brims with the promise of happiness, too.

        Happiness is attainable no matter how sad you feel today and that conviction to move forward takes you there even if you did not realize it as a destination.
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          Aug 22 2012: Yes, there is no claim that it is the size of ones collection of people to whom one has meaningful connections. But connection is worth finding.
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        Aug 22 2012: YOU always have something great to share!
  • Aug 17 2012: I think in some cases it all comes down to how we perceive the environment around us. If you reduce that, some of our perceptions stem from how we're raised and how we are taught to see the world as we grow up. I believe one has to make a conscious choice to introspect in order to change our perceptions/ behaviours as we mature.
  • Aug 16 2012: Poor or average people go to work , pay their bills , then come home and watch TV. Rich people on the other hand , have a big pile of money that they need to take care of. You gotta watch the stock market , you gotta check your accounts , you gotta sell , you gotta buy , you gotta bribe , you gotta take care of your wife , you gotta take care of your mistress , you gotta take care of your relatives , you gotta take care of your employees , you gotta take care of your accountant always up to stealing your money , you gotta get over the guilt of having to much and seeing others have nothing , you gotta .....
    I hope this is not to shallow , i get like this sometimes.
    PS : i am bankrupt so I guess I'm not stressed
  • Aug 14 2012: Happiness.... What is the definition? Are less "advantaged" (physical, mental, environmental or familial) seemingly more happy because even the slightest ''goodness" is appreciated with the fullest gratitude? On the other hand, more "privileged" people tend to have higher expectations and tend to easily overlook the simplest things.

    In a sense, it appears that being in a less "advantaged" position leads to simple pleasures, greater gratitude,and hence greater satisfaction with life. However, can we consider that "true happiness?" Isn't that still 'controlled' by the external factor and relativity? For example, less "fortunate" people have less to compare to; hence, in a way, ignorance and oblivion is a source of their pleasure. However, if these same people were given the chance live a more "privileged and advantaged" life and still "choose" to be happy regardless the "trappings of a great life" than perhaps they have chosen to lead a content and grateful life.
  • Aug 14 2012: WHAT is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare?—

    No time to stand beneath the boughs,
    And stare as long as sheep and cows:

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

    No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance:

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began?

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    (Leisure by WH Davies)
  • Aug 14 2012: 1. Fed and watered. (Basically looking after yourself properly)

    2. Able to keep a good stock of medicine (if necessary).

    3. Realising and accepting life is unfair.

    4 - The crucial one - Self worth and the community considering you to be a worthy member.

    5. The ability to control emotions and banish negative thoughts and direct the situation/thoughts to a positive outcome.

    I think the above are key factors and they may help any struggle one may encounter.
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    Aug 14 2012: In his wonderful book "Flow," Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, quotes Viktor Frankel, "…happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself."

    Professor Csikszentmihaly adds, "So how do we reach this elusive goal…it…begins with achieving control over the contents of our consciousness."

    He later writes, "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience (happiness?) is thus something that we 'make' happen.

    I humbly add, happiness is fleeting, temporary, replicable. Attaining happiness requires effort.

    Professor Csikszentmihaly adds, “For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves. Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant when they occur.”

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      Aug 20 2012: Viktor Frankel- now there is a man everyone of us can learn from!
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    Aug 14 2012: That is a true fact. I am suffering from depression, so is my boyfriend. We have almost everything people dream about, but we don't feel any peace or happiness....
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      Aug 15 2012: A hug for Meriem and her beloved:
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        Aug 15 2012: Thank u so much Debra Smith, I am really tired of this life, and my dreams, all because I can't come to canada easily and spend the rest of my life with the one I love :(
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          Aug 15 2012: This is the price that all nations pay when people jump the line to get into a country. Canada is stuck with many unsuitable immigrants who falsely claim refugee status or just arrive and squat. All of the really great people who would make a super contribution here are patiently waiting in a line that never seems to get shorter because of all the cheaters. Maybe we need tohave one year or every other year where we accept no refugees and only accept applicants.
          PS to its a matter of priorities remember, he could always come to you and you could make a life together where you are.
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        Aug 15 2012: i know, and i understand it very well, but he can't come to my country and leave behind him long years of hard work. I wish things will be better soon, and thank u for the support (^_^)
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          Aug 18 2012: Salaam Meriem. Eid Mubarak to you and your family. Don't lose heart. Allah send some very difficult trials at times. Use the strength and wisdom He has given you to make the best of the good things you have together and to find a way to be together in the future.
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        Aug 19 2012: Thank you Lesley Rickard , I hope things will be fine. And I pray Allah to give me all the patience and strength I really need. Eid Mubarak to you and your family too (^_^)
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    Gail .

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    Aug 14 2012: You answered your question when you used the word "trappings".

    Perhaps like your blind friend, I can also say that the worst day of my life was also the best day of my life. That was when I realized that my worldview was faulty and could not sustain happiness. My worldview crashed, and I had to establish another one. In the other one, the "trappings" play a far lesser role. In fact, I try to avoid being trapped by anything these days.
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    Aug 14 2012: In my humble view, I believe it's just level of expectations which determine whether the person is happy or not. The people with great talents and high intelligence expect the best out of themselves, like becoming a history-making scientists or com-memorable politician. But life is never gonna be satisfying for them; their dreams fall short, and they start to question themselves about their talents and intelligence, which eventually can lead to a state of melancholy.

    On the other hand, relatively mundane people with mediocre talents and intelligence just hope to live a good life: their dreams is to have a nice family and make a good living, instead of being in the spotlight or getting all the attention. Those expectations are easier to meet, and that's what makes them happier.
  • Aug 13 2012: I honestly wish I knew. I blame my personal complacence on my middle class upbringing; I've literally never had to struggle. Granted, I am fairly intelligent but all that did was grant me the insight I needed to get by on the minimum, and even though I went to college I skated through. I've been reflecting a lot lately & I've come to realize much of my life was handed to me & when pressed to say what happiness & success looks like to me I have no answer.
    • Aug 14 2012: Jon I appreciate your openness and honesty, this suggest to me that your upbringing had value and your journey has just begun. Enjoy
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      Aug 14 2012: Hi Jon,
      I also appreciate your openness and honesty, and I agree with Lyndon, that you may be at the beginning of a really interesting and fullfilling journey:>)

      I find that gratitude for what I have experienced is an important part of moving forward. No need to blame anyone or anything for who and what you are today. Use the information as a stepping stone to the next part of the life experience.

      "Be happy with what you have and you will have plenty to be happy about..."
      (Irish proverb)

      You say you are intelligent, which I do not doubt. You are exploring this issue in yourself, and that suggests intelligence. Be grateful that you are intelligent. So, it sounds like you did not apply yourself in school....I didn't either.....I skated through formal education because I do not do well in a classroom setting. I like to wholeheartedly, and physically be involved in learning. I learn more enjoyabley by participating.

      I do not believe one has to experience "struggle" to learn in this life adventure. Curiosity and a genuine intent to explore the life experience is a choice. What we focus on expands. Recognize what you DO have in your life to be grateful for, and it may be a catalyst for more. Have fun with the exploration as you leave blame behind:>)
  • Aug 13 2012: In a word... Attitude. I believe whether you think it is or not, You're right.
  • Aug 11 2012: The social contract we have with our society requires that the government protects us and we it. This requires compromise on both sides. I have to conform my behavior to a reasonable standard as established by the state and the culture. Unfortunately this means that we the people must suppress many of our natural tendencies This suppression in areas that are very compelling and personal leads to dissatisfaction and depression. Stop making the kids learn what you want them to learn. Let them grow into their life without the frustration they experience when they fail and when children fail they give up not only the subject they've been ordered to master they give up learning all together. Happiness is learning to live without the things you don't have and developing the things that you do.
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    Aug 11 2012: Could it be true that having a disability such as blindness, might actually be an enabler of a more acceptable and enjoyable form of normality?

    There are two reasons - one might be based on a kind of blessed relief from 'sighted normality' - ie not having to do, say and think what everybody else seems to have to conform to.

    As your blind friend has alluded to, there is also the theory that the loss of a vital sense such as sight or hearing, may give the person heightened capabilities in other senses.

    One example is Evelyn Glennie - an extraordinarily gifted percussionist, who is profoundly deaf. Her auditory sense has shifted from hearing with her ears to feeling sounds with her body - and her gift is obviously the better for it. She has a TED talk here:

    My only experience of being blind is when my family and I had a meal at a 'blind restaurant' in Berlin, where the food was served by blind waiting staff and we ate in complete darkness. It was an amazing experience, because I actually felt that my sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing became super-sensitive. This made me enjoy the food and the ambience much more than if I had been able to see, plus the fact that everybody else was in exactly the same circumstances as me. I did not regard loss of sight as a disadvantage at all at the time, though that was in the knowledge that my sight would be returned to me afterwards. A blind person does not have that choice.

    Living as a blind person for 3 months would be... well... an eye opener, actually! I'm not being flippant when I say that, because I absolutely believe that our experience of the world is not confined only to dedicated senses.
  • Aug 11 2012: Perception of self.
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    Aug 11 2012: Nice question and a compelling conversation!

    When it comes to life, and specifically the practical life, many of the answers to our questions seem puzzling. As to your question, some might answer: some people have their ways to be happy while others dont, whatever the circumstances of their lives be. Others would answer differently: that material privileges do not squire with actual happiness, that lack of material privileges does not squire with unhappiness, or that having sufficient privileges, not less or more, leads to happiness. Other answers would probably focus on the psychological aspects: beliefs, values, perceptions, attitudes, etc. But a bigger question arises: what it means to be happy? Related questions: how do we measure happiness? by making ourselves happy, what is it we are doing? are we keeping our mind healthy, remaining emotionally strong, etc?

    There is a stronger stance that our education system only teaches us technical knowledge on material aspects of things, not so much on our inner world. We assume that when we have achieved such and such a degree, certificate, or got such and such a job, we will be happy. We are driven to achieve, and when we can achieve, it is held, we will be successful. What it means to be successful is another big question! But it seems obvious that we are educating someone to be successful and therefore be happy (?). As complex as our social world seems with its technological advancement and ideological sophistication, as some might say, our ideas of happiness seem to be threatened, negotiated, or reformulated. There is often the dilemma in choosing between the outer world and the inner world, or to maintain both. But a person who is distressful today, might be happy tomorrow, or is on the passage to happiness. He/she is probably in conflict that will lead to happiness? Who knows? We have to find out, and we have to start with ourselves. :-)
  • 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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    Aug 11 2012: You create your future and your happiness. The problem with the "privileged" is that they are not necessarily good and this. This is a fundamental problem with socialism.
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      Aug 11 2012: Necessity is the mother of invention? So, perhaps if everything is given to us, there is no need to explore ourselves or our worldview on many different levels?

      I agree...we create our own happiness.....or not!
      Great little old (1991) book..."Happiness is a Choice" by Barry Neil Kaufman. Still available on line.
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        Aug 12 2012: Actually I prefer: life is a game, it is most efficacious and fun to participate this way.

        I get that this is the you roll?
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          Aug 12 2012: The "you roll"? Suggesting this is my role as well?

          Actually, I call life and all associated activities and pursuits my work/play, so perhaps we are on the same wave length...efficacious indeed:>)
  • Aug 10 2012: "The Law of Diminishing Returns?"
    I didn't know that's what it was.

    Are those on as re-runs?
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    Aug 10 2012: 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?
    • Aug 22 2012: Just my best guess:

      Some people would find it very enlightening, they would take advantage of the lessons learned and would be much happier.

      Some people would see it as confirmation of their conviction that life sucks and then you die.

      Most people would learn something from the experience, but it would not make a fundamental change.

      For some people it would be meaningless because they are wise and can be happy regardless of their circumstances.
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    Aug 10 2012: I go the opposite direction of many people on this thread. People say it's the law of diminishing returns... that you want more. I go the opposite way.

    I actually think that as you succeed in business, and even life, you begin to realize, that it's not that hard. There are self destructive, and stupid desires in all of us, but if you can learn to control them, it is relatively easy to succeed materially. Emotional success is a bit more of a journey than a destination, but it still revolves primarily around avoiding things that you know, aren't healthy.

    I think as you become more successful, it's actually easier to start disliking people. What I occasionally call "Atlas Shrugged Syndrome", where you're just constantly thinking "This is easy, what the hell is wrong with all you people?". It's one of the single dumbest over reactions to success I've ever seen, but it seems to happen to lots of people.

    They either get trapped in "everyone must be stupid, so I have to save them", and just pile wealth up, thinking about how they're going to distribute it later, and that's going to make them happy... Or they get trapped in "I'm the only person who deserves to succeed... crush the lemmings", which can only lead to misery.

    It would really just be childish and funny if it weren't so tragic. I think lots of successful people who are miserable, would not benefit from 3 months blind, they'd just see it as validation that the world hates them, or they'd say "See, I can do this blind, you're all even worse". I'm pretty cynical about wealthy people who complain though.
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    Aug 10 2012: I'll give you my two cents worth in economic terms. We look at the people around us and compare our opertunity with theirs and our perceived success with theirs. The problem is that wealth is distributed on a logarithmic scale. This means that each time you move one step up the scale the next guy up is even richer. This means that even though you are personally better off you seem to go backwards compared to those around you. The solution to this feeling of economic inadequacy is to hang out with poor people. It gives you a reality check. You start to think "what the hell am I worried about money for? Things could be much worse and I should just enjoy what I've got."
    I think this process might also work for other areas. Being exposed to hard times makes us more cognisant of what we have and less concerned about what we have not.
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    Aug 9 2012: I understand that psychologists have answered this one. They suggest that humans are more motivated by loss than potential gain. They use experiments where children are given sweets and only get a reward if they refrain from eating all the sweets straight away. Not much of an experiment really just more evidence that if you try hard enough you can devise an experiment to prove just about anything. No controls for thngs like hunger, the shineyness of the wrappers or a child's previous conditioning about sweets. I think it is true that in losing one thing humans will look to compensate by developing in other ways. The most amazing 'evidence' I am aware of is people who are somehow badly brain damaged and yet still function. Not talking about surgical procedures but brain tissue damage due to disease etc. Not a scientist per se but it isn't the human spirit a marvellous thing. Where I think it may be going wrong is in the idea that we need to be happy for most of the time, I suggest only if a person is a zombie. Most great achievers seem to be profoundly miserable, they may get high and creative but it is in the cooler latitudes of misery that they take the time to reflect and focus and make tangible their ideas. Just a few thoughts.