2015-12-21

Two ways to pursue happiness

Intelligent people learn to adapt to environment, 
unintelligent people adapts environment to them 
(popular joke)

1. Change the outside

Few people can be happy when basic needs are not met. When you are hungry or in pain it is unlikely that something would make you happy. Even with the basic needs fulfilled, many people have higher order needs, like being appreciated, achieving their highest potential.

Therefore, a prerequisite of happiness should be to have the necessary means to achieve a satisfactory life, at the full height of the Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
source: wikipedia.org
For this, one should have the necessary means to achieve food and shelter. Good education should increase the likelihood of fulfilling the basic needs of life, by a well rewarded occupation, like a well payed job. Of course, you could get some of this even begging, but there is not very much safety in this "job".

When we are talking about love/belonging, higher education is not anymore a good predictor of success. One could push harder for advancing career and neglect human relations, loose friends and have a bad family life. Self actualization could get some benefit from this, however it is uncertain if a higher degree need can fully compensate for a more basal need that is unfulfilled.

Maybe a balanced life, with all the needs fulfilled at satisfactory level is more safe than one with some holes at various levels. If you go sick pursuing financial security it's not really a good deal...

2. Change the inside

There are people that have great personal achievements, but they are still not happy. They push themselves for greater and greater goals and never get satisfied. These people are perfectionists, they sometimes have major contributions to the people around, however they are still hungry, still wanting for more...

There are many cases when such people, without proper self reward for their efforts, just gave up and finish their prolific life prematurely.

For such people, it may be even more important to change themselves to be a little more pleased with what they have achieved. Most of them are idealists, they aim for perfection. In some cases there might be chemical imbalances that prevent them to be happy with what they have.

Anyway, there are various methods that aims to make people more happy with what they have. There are psychological therapies, antidepressant pills, meditation, religious practices. Actually, from my limited knowledge, a core message in Buddhism is to reduce the suffering by changing the inside, to not cling on various desires...

Actually, it might be more easy to get happy by changing the subjective perception on the world than by... changing the world. Many people can be very joyful with very little. This is because wealthy people gets very easy accustomed with what they have and they need more and more in order to obtain the same pleasure.

The risk for happy people that don't worry much is that they can easily go into huge trouble, when even their basic needs are threatened. A good live on the long run requires a little more worry...

For a happy life, psychologists recommend many small pleasures and rewards, as opposed to pursuing a huge reward that will come after very much effort. There is a limit of how much joy you can digest from a single experience. It is like being hungry 7 days waiting for a huge meal that is 14 times bigger than you eat in one regular day.

It might be even necessary to go through small periods of shortcomings in order to better appreciate the value of what you have. For sure, some small tricks can help being happy after you have your basic needs met.

3. Beyond happiness

But what if happiness is not the ultimate thing in life? What if this is not the full picture? What if there is one additional criteria that helps to balance the two paths above? To be continued...

Please share this article if you find it interesting. Thank you.

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