The Keys to Happiness - by Mojo Rider

I wanted to piggyback on some things James mentioned in his previous post on the Blog and the Facebook discussions. James said he wanted to impart some wisdom to make life easier on the younger guys, to have them be fulfilled. That got me thinking about what makes a person happy? What would make you, the reader, happy? Those that feel isolated, what would make you have a good life?

As I kind of mentioned in my response to James' post, whining isn't good if you do it all the time. You can whine to vent and blow off some steam about the debilitating social images we have, but you also have to do something about it and go about living your life. So what would make you happy?

You'd probably answer "money", right? Well, that might not be so true. There has been research done by academics and economists about the link between money and happiness and the findings are interesting. It's mostly an illusion. Sure, money is important in that we have to pay the rent and put food on the table. It sure does provide a bit happiness to those who are struggling financially, but it's more likely to reduce the stress of daily survival.

A 2006 Princeton study concluded that money and happiness is illusory:

While most people believe that having more income would make them happier, Princeton University researchers have found that the link is greatly exaggerated and mostly an illusion.

People surveyed about their own happiness and that of others with varying incomes tended to overstate the impact of income on well-being, according to a new study. Although income is widely assumed to be a good measure of well-being, the researchers found that its role is less significant than predicted and that people with higher incomes do not necessarily spend more time in more enjoyable ways....

For the new study, the researchers examined data from the 2004 survey to illustrate misperceptions that more money buys more happiness. Their experiment extended previous studies in which people have exhibited a "focusing illusion" when asked about certain factors contributing to their happiness -- attributing a greater importance to that factor once it has been brought to mind. For example, when people were asked to describe their general happiness and then asked how many dates they had in the past month, their answers showed little correlation. But when the order of the questions was reversed for another group, the link between their love lives and general happiness became much greater.

Ted Leonsis, former AOL executive and owner of the Washington Capitals NHL franchise, is a fascinating and successful businessman, having grown up in a working class household. He is accessible to the fans, blogs, and interacts with fans making him one of the more popular sports franchise owners in the US. He also has written a book about happiness and it's not so much a book to build up his ego about what a great savvy business guy he is; rather, it's about life lessons he's learned along the way. What he's basically found is this: happiness brings success, not the other way around.

On his blog, he writes:

While I think money can help, I certainly don’t think it’s the key to ultimate happiness - particularly since I know some pretty wealthy people who are very unhappy souls. As I’ve commented on previously, I’ve noticed that there are five traits that the happiest people I know - all happen to share:

1. Being connected to multiple communities of interest in an active way. The more people on your buddy list the happier you are;

2. Giving back through volunteerism and sharing with others. (YouTube, MySpace and other social networks prove this point on the importance of sharing);

3. Pursuing the higher calling in all of your major efforts, by doing what is right in the right way.

4. Self expression. Having a good third place to exchange ideas, be creative and have your voice be heard (why do you think there are 54 million blogs out there?)

5. Showing gratitude by being thankful and optimistic.

In his book, he also writes about how he bought a Ferrari only to find out it really didn't have much meaning to his life, that it was like an empty calorie. A nice thing to have but so what? It's about being multi-dimensional rather than singularly focused all the time. It is the variety of life's experiences that creates a full life and that lends itself to happiness.

Expand your social circles. Get out there and don't let life pass you by.

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