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Tony Dunne

Independent Business Owner, ACN Pacific,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Aug 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?”

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