What Happiness is

Looking out the window of the coffee shop, I can’t stop from thinking about what happiness means. I see people engaging in jovial discussions, others seemingly inwardly collapsing, and yet, I have a happy smile as I glance around. Maybe it’s the aroma of the coffee beans or the sweet smell of the pastries. I’m not sure. But, what I do know is that this time trading pursuit today has brought me some peace.

What I’ve realized is that happiness is really a virtue of the goals we set for ourselves and our motivations for attaining them. I used to think that happiness was routed in money, but here I am, with less than $5 in my pocket for the week and hey I’m happy and I don’t sense that I’d be feeling any different if I had a million dollars in my pocket. It’s interesting how this simple moment has parlayed itself to my broader view on life.

Goals are not about money! They have more meaning to us than simply a monetary value. They’re internal and drive us to want to seek them and the resulting pleasure that comes with attaining it. To a large degree our happiness is measured as our subjective well-being. We simply ask ourselves if we’re happy. But the answer is more complicated than stating that we are, in fact, happy. Our answer implicitly takes into account our environment or inputs and determines if we’ve satisfied our desires. If we have, then we’re happy; if we haven’t, then we’re not happy.  Seems simple enough when you strip away the complexities we tend to attach to it.

As I scan through some old magazines on the rack, I notice that 1995-2007 OECD World Values Survey places the top five countries with the happiest citizens as:

  • Denmark
  • Puerto Rico
  • Colombia
  • Iceland
  • Northern Ireland

What’s interesting to note is that Canada, the U.S.A., Japan, the U.K., and other European countries aren’t at the top of the list, yet they’re some of the wealthiest countries in the world. Two of the top happiest countries are quite poor, Puerto Rico and Colombia, yet they have the happiest citizens. Why is that? It’s because happiness isn’t defined in monetary terms, rather how we interpret the satisfaction of our desires. In the end, these countries are happy because they’re able to leverage their goals more effectively to satisfy their needs. In essence, our goals frame our outcomes and lead us to become motivated in reaching our desires.

Challenging our values and belief systems is good for the soul. I remember having my conventional notions of happiness shattered on a meandering walk through a barrio in the city of Quito. Happiness, I felt, came largely from financial freedom. After all, if I was financially well off, I surmised, I’d be happy. Quite simply, this is a collective notion held by the majority of people. Yet, in this barrio, people were clearly happy. The children were kicking around a ball, dogs were running freely about, people were talking and socially engaged, all oblivious to the abject poverty surrounding them.

When you think about it, our level of happiness is processed in regard to our environment, comparisons to others past experiences, and future expectations. We utilize this core system to think and derive our being. In the end, we all tend to evaluate our life against subjectively defined beliefs or perceptions of society. This is probably why I incorrectly assumed the people in the barrio were unhappy. They may have been severely economically disadvantaged, but they were certainly happy; much happier than I was at the time.

And, so here I am. Sitting in a coffee shop, happy.

Have you found your happiness?

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.

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8 Responses to What Happiness is
  1. Anonymous says:

    Keep up the good work. I love the pics!

  2. Kirstin Fronek says:

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  3. McLauchlen says:

    I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The site style is wonderful, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  4. [...] What Happiness Is by Robert @ Time Trading Guru [...]

  5. I absolutely agree that money does not bring us happiness. Many of the wealthiest countries get caught up in the rat race that the simple things in life are forgotten. I work in corporate America and it’s so easy to say I want to focus on the simple joys of life but then not act out on it because other influences like bosses intrude with demands. With a different mindset though that boss becomes the 9-5 to support the life outside of work which is real living. Great post! Also, thanks for the mention.

  6. Good insights. I agree with happiness beginning with freedom in the mind.

  7. Socratez says:

    Stress makes people unhappy. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that stress distracts people from being happy. In the USA there is also poverty, but the social differences are huge. It seems that the social inequality has a bigger effect on people’s wellbeing than the amount of wealth they possess. However, in Europe there is a huge middleclass and relatively little social inequality compared to the US, but here many people are working jobs they don’t like :D I suppose happiness starts with freedom in the mind, so the moment can be experienced with the entire being. Thanks for putting together this carnival!

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