Monday, March 26, 2007

Dilbert's happiness formula

Scott Adams, the guy who writes Dilbert, gives us a happiness formula.
Happiness = health + money + social life + meaning
Of course, it's hard to know if he's right. He says that the most important is on the left side, and the least important is on the right. I'm actually surprised that health is first, but maybe this is why people are always saying "at least you have your health". I suppose it depends on how you think about health. If health to you is "not being bedridden" then I can see it as more likely to be the most important. However, if health is "not getting sick frequently", then it's harder to argue that.

I'm also surprised that money is number two. Granted, a great deal of issues and problems in our lives revolve around money, but again, I believe it depends just how exactly you're defining money. If you don't have enough money to feed and shelter yourself, I could see that as being a huge obstacle to happiness. (I know some homeless people "enjoy" their lifestyle, but I'd be hard pressed to believe any strong claims of happiness). However, once you have enough money to live, I'm not convinced that money is proportional to happiness.

Are the wealthier people you know happier in general?

Meaning is the least important, which surprises me, because certainly many people seem to treat this as the most important. Is it because they are happy with the other 3 parts of the equation? Perhaps this explains why it seems like more often it's the successful people who are searching for meaning.

Also, social life seems the most objective to me, because there are some people that are truly happy with very little social life. I would say that the important component of social life, is whether or not their social life is what they want it to be, which for some people is much more active than others. (Compare this to money, where it seems more straightforward that you want more money, rather than less). Unless we consider that your desired social life is a function of other emotional issues you have, and that objectively, everyone wants an 'active' social life.

Then I started reading the comments, and this one saddened me:
My only problem with this is that the first three priorities in your happiness formula are uncontrollable. It's very difficult to control health to any extent, as well as wealth and even social life. Meaning is the only thing that can be controlled. The first three have to do with luck and success, not with a formula for happiness.
I couldn't imagine what it would feel like to believe that you had no control over your health, money, or social life. Of course, now it's occurring to me that there must be many other people out there who think like he does.

In case anyone else believes him, let me remind you: EVERYONE HAS CONTROL OF THEIR LIVES. You choose what to be. You choose what to do. You choose how to react to things. Your choices determine who you are. You can make healthier choices. You can make more financially smart choices. And you certainly can choose what kind of social life you have.

If pessimism can make you think like that guy, it'd be a bigger obstacle to happiness than any of the pieces of the formula.

1 comment:

Justin Credible said...

A couple of my good friends are raw foodists who swear they feel like they're 10 years old, only better -- bursting with energy and feeling constant joy coursing through their bodies, enjoying every moment of existence. Their secret: only pure, fresh and raw food, and positive, youthful thinking at all times. (After all, at the subatomic level, aren't we nothing more than energy systems? We supposedly excrete the same poundage that we eat. So what is assimilated?) If this is Scott's "health", then I agree it's the "most important". As a joyful, human dynamo, how could you not be "happy"? Wouldn't success in everything naturally be drawn in by your positive magnetism?(Don't believe the "you are what you eat" connection? Try a moderate purification of your diet for a month and observe the results.)