Do we live "by default"?

Just something to think about on Jan 1 - the day of resolutions…

It’s easy to fall into that trap/rut and keep doing the same thing. I see it all the time with my friends and co-workers. Some of them are doing the same thing they did 1 or 2 years ago professionally, living in the same place. I can’t stand it! I get too ADD. For example, I’ve been in my current position almost a year, but still applied for an internal vacancy before Christmas because it was new and sounded awesome. I’m not likely to get it as it’s above my current level by a decent amount, but you never know!

Keep moving, keep making changes, keep improving!

…article does mentioned getting married and having kids, probably the most fulliling thing in life.

I’d rather die enormous than live dormant , like jayz says.

Good point.

Also, chosing a person to marry is one of those things that we do consiously, not by “happenstance”. Ironically 50% of us do it wrong at least once.

I think happenstance takes the responsibility of failing or making wrong decisions off an individual and majority of people prefer it that way.

This article is a trap IMO. My first reaction was, “Not me!” but then probably everyone feels that way. It reads like the author is kind of smugly judging people. But then if you have the not me reaction, you are also sort of judging people as a smug a-hole (“Sweet, I’m better than everyone else living their mundane existances, I’m so awesome.”).

IMO we’re built to struggle because throughout human evolution, life was very hard and survival was uncertain. Anyone who didn’t naturally gravitate toward at least a moderate amount of struggle in their daily lives would have been quickly weeded out of the gene pool. Mother nature didn’t design you (or any of us) to be happy, she designed us to be effective. Ain’t that a bitch? Of course you can try your best to be happy and making changes that maximize your happiness, which is I guess the silver lining to an otherwise smug article, but it seems like our species is inherely bad at finding “true happiness” in our lives.

It would be pretty interesting to see an economic study of the per capita GDP expenditure in the developed world on activities associated with the search for “true happiness” – I bet it is higher today than at any other point in history. Survival is all but assured in the developed world, so the focus has shifted from “survival” to “maximizing happiness.”

He worked for a Ph.D. degree in molecular genetics at the Pasteur Institute under French Nobel Laureate François Jacob. After completing his doctoral thesis in 1972, Ricard decided to forsake his scientific career and concentrate on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.

He has been dubbed the “happiest person in the world” by popular media.[3][4][5] Matthieu Ricard was a volunteer subject in a study performed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s on happiness, scoring significantly beyond the average obtained after testing hundreds of volunteers.[4]

[video: width:550 height:550]

I read the article and didn’t think “not me!” I think the article understates that there are moments that we are freer and less free to make major changes. Moving to a new town may mean breaking up a marriage or a family, and that’s a much heavier decision to make at some points in your life than others.

You want to make changes when the risk-reward benefit is in your favor, so part of it is understanding who you are and what you want, and also being open to new experiences, and realizing that sometimes you will be and sometimes you won’t, and sometimes you might just need to make a small effort to push yourself to the zone where you can be able to handle change.

There is a common question in political science, which is “why are the poor typically so conservative, when radical changes are often proposed that would seemingly benefit them,” and the traditional answer is that the poor often have so few resources available to them that they depend on continuity. To be robust would require deployment of additional resources that they either don’t have or are needed elsewhere. Other explanations include “false consciousness” kinds of things like “they don’t know they would benefit,” or “they don’t understand why the existing system is so bad for them.”

Even for the well-off, the challenge is that changing one of those major pillars often places challenges on the other major pillars of one’s life, so you can’t really change just one of them, typically. They all have to adapt.

Still, getting to know yourself is key to figuring out how to make what you do and how you live meet your needs, and remembering that we change and evolve over time is also important, so we may discover that things make us happy now that didn’t make us happy earlier. If you aren’t aware of these changes, you can’t adapt your life to enjoy it better.

There is an annual happiness index. It’s the socialist nordic european countries that always rank among the most happiest. Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland dominate the rankings year after year.

It is a symptom of our society that everybody feels that they are destined for greatness. It almost seems sacrilege to say to somebody, “hey, buddy, maybe you just weren’t meant to be the next Bill Gates.” Maybe not everyone is a special snowflake, as Durden would say.

In my grandfather’s time, men and women defined their lots in life differently. There was no mass media outlets or 500 channels showing the myriad possibilities that are out there. There was just local ballgames and barbeques with a Miller High Life in a Hawaiian shirt on the weekend, and the steady whistle of the factory smokestacks during the week. And this was the American Dream.

Yo, here’s the deal – I don’t know if I’ll EVER be happy. But I do know that until I find the ultimate answer, there are three things that need to continually happen so that I don’t go sideways in life:

  • Make fat stacks at work
  • Get mad swole at the gym
  • Add at least one resume-writable skill, credential or achievement every 6-8 months

If I can at least keep my health and wealth airtight, I am convinced that I will ultimately be able to ascend to the summit of Maslow’s pyramid.

My main point, which might have gotten lost, is that we’re not really meant to be happy all the time in every way. Our species is not designed that way. We are problem solvers. We struggle a bit (or a lot depending on the circumstances) and conquer obstacles. We innovate. This is one of the great competitive advantages that make Homo sapiens the dominant species on the planet.

You can’t just turn off millions of years of evolution. The quest for constant happiness all the time is a function of the post-industrial world where life (in the developed world at least) is literally the easiest it has ever been. I think it’s sad and empty that some people spend their entire existences looking for the next happiness hit. Go challenge yourself. Do something unique or interesting. Don’t worry about what some monk thinks about whether you are doing it right or not.

Personally, I think the guy in the article has a pretty good life. He is among the 5% of people in the world that live in America, the greatest country in the world. He has a job he is good at. He has good friends. His attractive girl friend watches movies with him and then bangs him at the end of the night. He has no health problems. I mean seriously that’s pretty good, I bet 95% of people worldwide would change places with him if given the chance. Who is anyone to judge him? I’d much rather be that guy than the monk.

Happiest contries in the world (

  1. Norway

  2. Switzerland

  3. Canada

  4. Sweden

  5. New Zealand

  6. Denmark

  7. Australia

  8. Finland

  9. Netherlands

  10. Luxembourg

  11. United States

While I agree that the good ol’ USA is certainly the land of opportunity compared to anywhere else in the world, in all my travels, I have yet to see a country where more peope are genuinely depressed. Sure, there are an elite few that can hit tennis balls around their living room smashing valuables, but many people in the US are horribly depressed. Have you ever ventured into a suburban USA Walmart? Holy crap, I nearly left depressed at seeing all those people, fighting it out with their stretched out credit cards in a battle to consume more than the overweight dude next to them.

No country in the world has a higher percentage of people using antidepressants than America. 22 percent (CDC: of women 40-59 need antidepressants. Yes, the US is the wealthiest, but I’d argue it’s far from the happiest, which I think is a major component of “greatest.”

Not trying to be anti-American, just posting some thoughts about happiness and how, perhaps, Americans value it less than other things (status, wealth). I found that most in Northern European countries are actually genuinely happy and content with life. I don’t see many content Americans. Hence the depression.

^ If you are in the top 10% of society, the US is arguably the best place to live in due to property rights, peace, stable democracy, resilient and diversified economy, low tax rates relative to other developed countries and greater access to opportunities for those that already have capital.

If you are in the bottom 50%, there are dozens and dozens of countries that provide a better standard of living…and these countries aren’t any worse fiscally. I don’t think Norway, Sweden or Canada have a better chance of going bankrupt than the US. Maybe if they had a population of 300 million they would?

The appeal of the US for a century was the American dream, that someone from the bottom can rise to the top. I’m not so sure upward mobility is as accessible today than it was a generation ago.

Personal security is another issue, and I think it weighs on happiness. The US is a very violent country. Yes, it’s generally limited to certain areas and among certain groups, but walking the streets of Chicago is noticably different than the streets of Brussels when it comes to worrying about getting mugged or otherwise assaulted.

Part of this violence is related to the social inequity you discuss above. The bottom segments of the US population don’t have much to lose by killing me for my watch. So few are marginalized in more socially advanced countries that you don’t have great segments of people with nothing to lose.

Looking at the Walmart folks I mentioned earlier, these seems to me like people all on the border of being “nothing to lose” criminals.

Absolutely though when it comes to property rights, taxes, etc., the US is a good place to be if you’re rich.

I still think the US is the greatest country in the world. There is more opportunity for self advancement and self enrichment (in both the financial and non-financial senses) than anywhere I can think of. It is a choose your own adventure country. I still think upward mobility can happen but you have to work at it.

The US is really only violent in certain areas. In SF, the Tenderloin neighborhood is probably really violent. Where I live (outside the city), the murder rate is essentially zero and the rest of the crime rate is near zero.

Anyway maybe the US is a good example of what the article is saying – I personally feel that we have far too little personal responsibility in this country. People are fat and depressed? Stop being fat and depressed then. It’s really that simple, which is basically what the article said – he didn’t say it was simple per se, but that if it’s not working, it’s up to people to make changes. I agree with that, and I think the US is the greatest country in the world because you have more opportunity here to make positive changes than anywhere else I can think of (I’ve personally been to around 35-40 countries and lived in 3 foreign countries). It’s far easier to work hard and move up here than it is in Europe, for example.

My lens is colored from being first generation and working my ass off. Maybe other people have a different perspective. I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at if I weren’t born in the US.

So basically, how you stand depends on where you sit.

The problem with “evolution” arguments is. . . well there are multiple. If you watch the video, then you’d realize the whole point is about situational influences vs internal influences. You can pick people like Eminem who have all the reasons to be happy in the world, but are still miserable. And you can pick the reverse. But science (which some of is mentioned in that video) has found some suprising answers. Being 4 standard deviations out from the bell curve I’m sure is quite the way to experience life.

The US isn’t as violent as people think. Even US citizens think it’s more dangerous than it really is; or that it’s getting worse and worse. The truth of the matter is crime rates have steadily decreased since the early '90’s. In fact, crime rates are similar to where they were in the '60’s. Not many people know that since the 24 hour news networks have nothing better to do than scare the crap out of my grandma.

No animal previously has had the ability to focus solely on “happiness” or “contentment” or whatever we self-awarely seek after basic needs are satisfied. I personally believe that the evolution of human society (as opposed to actual biology) will lead to accelerated biological evolution. That is, I’m not sure that human historical evolution is a good model for future human evolution.

As you state above, we are not meant to be happy. I think that the issue is that we (humans) are problem solvers and we’ve largely solved the food/shelter problem. We are trying to approach happiness the same way, which is where the trouble starts. People think “I’m not happy” and try to fix it with a pill. In reality, people are supposed to be sad sometimes. That’s okay. I am in no way saying that mental health is a sham. Many people have real psychological disorders that require chemical treatment; however, I do think that many people seek solace in a pill when they would be better off feeling the sadness or discontentment which would spur them to make life changes that may improve their mental health.

^ Studies show cardio exercise is more effective than anti-depressants in most cases. And that mind training can promote mental health like working out in the gym promotes physical. In my experience, the mental training is far harder than physical training but the benefits are great especially when combined.