TED Conversations

Nic Marks

Director, Happiness Works


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Is happiness an emergent property?

Can we become happier? Do others make us happy? Or unhappy for that matter? Is it in our control? Or are we victims of circumstance?

Is happiness like romantic love - in that if we try too hard and want it too much it escapes us? Is Dan Gilbert right in that we stumble upon it - or Srikumar Rao in suggesting it just a revealing process? Or maybe they both are?


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    Mar 3 2011: We control how we feel. We are people that run on "Bio-Energy" an electric form of energy that runs the body. We as people are able to feel happy whenever we are around certain people while we generate other kinds of emotions around different kinds of people.
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      Mar 6 2011: We don't ''control'' how we feel unless we block all emotions from happening. I'm not saying you can't pick yourself up and through constant work become more satisfied in life, but emotions aren't controllable. And in my view that's what's not working - the control. If we're unhappy, frustrated, angry, happy, if we love - we should just EXPRESS that instead of trying to control it, and know that it is only an emotion. It does not define the completeness of who we are or what we can achieve, but it is an experience.

      And yes, if we hang around positive ppl we are positive and things like that, and the energy level is higher - but does that mean that we are happier? Not necessarily, because if we stop spending time with them, and are left on our own, we become sad.

      I think I idealize happiness a little bit, but then we all do. Happiness is being true to yourself and have that feeling that even if everything you know and everyone you know disappears tomorrow, you can still, somehow, figure out a way to live and enjoy what you have/are doing.
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        Mar 6 2011: I think you're right, Codruta. hahah, you can't just say, 'grrr,' wrestle happiness to the floor and pin it in your life. (The emotion of control and that of happiness kind of tough to keep together, aren't they?)

        I like your point that there is an enduring type of happiness. I also think though that the moment to moment happiness is real and important. But one, kindof of leads to another, doesn't it? :)

        "What is the point of life, if you do not have moments everyday to laugh with, moments you can love tenderly and unconditionally in memory."

        I love love love your last point, "if everything you know and everyone you know disappears..." brilliant. Really shows you what is important, doesn't it? even in death.
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      Mar 6 2011: I think we can steer our thoughts so that we create the circumstances of happiness.
      The happiest person I ever knew had absolutely no reason to be. His outlook still fascinates me.
      Like you say, if we can create this happiness consciously and authentically... wow.
      It sounds kind of silly, but search wikipedia for a subject you hate, one that bores you to tears. You will find evidence of a group of people entirely enthralled and passionate. It seems normal, (to each his own, right?) but its rather incredible when you think that that drastic difference in emotion is simply due to perspective(a perspective you can gain!). You may know every fact on that page, but you are still missing something they understand, right? :)
      I like to imagine a way to translate that appreciation. That is the next revolution in social networking :) Across time, across language: translate perspective so people really understand. I think the world would change socially in a flash. all for the happier and more respectful ;)
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        Mar 7 2011: I'll reply to you here. I somehow think there must be a more efficient way to group replies? Maybe there's an email notification I can enable.

        ''The happiest person I ever knew had absolutely no reason to be.'' - that's exactly right. I have met a lot of people that are happy and seem to have less reasons than me to be so. That's why I respect them, and their strength, to be who they are no matter what the outside world tells them. It's mind-boggling that they can find pleasure in so many things where I take that pleasure for granted...I wish there was a way to go back to reality and learn to be GRATEFUL for everything we have and we've accomplished in our lives. And make sure we're grateful but not complacent, and that we work to do better and be better every second of our life.

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