Can happiness be tracked like a monthly financial budget? Can we figure out how to become happier? Are we self-aware enough to measure our own happiness level accurately? I have plenty of questions, and took a stab at finding some answers. Since it’s the internet, I also had to include a picture of a kitten (my kitten, actually).
Over the past month, I’d rate my happiness as:
4.5 out of 5 smileys!
How did I get there? Well, I think a lot of life is about balance. According to my philosophy, the meaning of life resides in 3 areas: Relationships, Personal Growth, and Freedom. These areas, for me, all need attention and can’t be too lopsided. Additionally, I’m going to add a fourth category: Health. If you’re not healthy physically and non-physically (mentally, spiritually, etc), it’s hard to be happy.
In a ridiculous attempt to quantify my thoughts, I made a quick happiness spreadsheet to get to my score:
Methodology: As I thought about each area of life, I found it fairly easy to plot my scores on a scale of 1 to 5. I’m generally a happy guy, just like you’re generally a happy gal, so I think 4 is my baseline. A score of 5 means “extremely happy.” It doesn’t mean every moment is perfect and I’m constantly giggling and smiling at strangers; it’s more of a condition, a recognition that life is going well in that area. I think a 2 would be pretty bad. Zero is the zombie apocalypse.
Here are some highlights from this month:
- I had quality time with my wife and kids — we went to a cool museum and had other fun outings. I enjoy being married (and my wife now reads the blog — heya Ms. Rich!) The only ding (-0.5) is our extended family is far away, and I didn’t do a great job of connecting with them.
- My best friend visited and we had a BLAST. We had an epic 10-course lunch tasting meal, did some exploring, and went to a secret speakeasy bar. It really deserves a 7 on the scale of 1 to 5.
- Not much to note here — I’m happy with my job and with my hobbies, including this blog!
- Freedom to me is the ability to pursue enjoyment. I had specific memorable experiences (like the day with my buddy) as well as many day-to-day enjoyable moments (like taking my kids to the beach).
- Physical health was the laggard. When a child is sick, you realize you’d gladly take all the other petty problems in exchange for your kid feeling better. My boy is better now, but it was tough to see him uncomfortable, visit the doctor, and worry. Also, I’m in the midst of dental work. No fun, tooth be told.
- Why 3.5 and not 3 or even 2? Because I already see silver linings. I’m thankful that I had the ability to drop everything and stay home. It was satisfying to take care of the kid, comfort him, and see him get healthy again. Also, I discovered the joy of flossing!
So, the benefit of this pseudo-science numerology is that it helps me identify the areas I need to improve. With better health and more focus on personal growth, I’d be close to “optimal happiness.”
Your Happiness Report for February was … heavy. 75% of friends with marriage problems?? That is astounding. It must be difficult to see that pain around you.
Why do you think this is happening in your social circles? I’m not having the same experience, and I don’t want to assume anything. In your opinion, how much of happiness is intrinsic and personality-based, and how much is extrinsic and circumstantial? Are we happy because of who we are, or because of what we do (our choices), or because of what happens to us (our circumstances)?
Finally — to you and to any readers — what would you put in a “Happiness Spreadsheet”?