Would you love to travel or see ancient history?

Would you love to travel or see ancient history? Will you be dead before you find happiness?

Can you determine how to be happy?  The idea that I’m building on is the NPV calculation, the Net Present Value used to determine the better option between competing projects with differing time-frames.  I’ve been thinking about a net present happiness (NPH), about considering those things that bring short-term happiness, and those that may require an investment in order to reap larger happiness in the future.  If you’re wondering what something like this might look like, look no further than retirement.  The idea of saving for retirement, foregoing happiness that you could have now by blowing your entire paycheck, and saving for the future so that as an old man or woman you’ll be able to travel the world, enjoy hobbies, or at least not eat cat food, basically future happiness.

How would you go about thinking about how to calculate your current and future happiness?  You’d need to consider similar constraints as those in the NPV calculation.  Namely, you’d need to consider all the flows of happiness from a given activity, both those in the present and future, and the flows of happiness related to other activities that you’re giving up.  Additionally, you’d need to properly discount the happiness of the future.  Like money, future happiness is worth less than present happiness in most cases, not because of inflation, but because it is so difficult to estimate future happiness and it is uncertain.

And this really is the biggest problem with net present happiness, estimating future happiness flows from various activities.  Take something simple like a new pair of shoes, those neat 4 inch heels  with the red bottom that you’ve wanted.  How do you estimate or quantify how much happiness those will bring.  Is the desire from the other women at work worth more than the looks from the guys?  What about the confidence from wearing them, what’s that worth?  What about once those initial times of happiness pass, as they generally decrease with time and number of exposures?  If we can’t answer these questions about things in our life compared to others in the short term, how do we do so in the long term?  Is the method doomed because it is just too difficult?

Does money drive your happiness, or what it can do?

Does money drive your happiness, or what it can do?

I don’t think so.  However it will take some work.  What are some of the areas that bring us true happiness?  In the example above, it isn’t the shoes themselves, but the reactions we get, the feelings we have about or because of them, and status and success they convey to others that make us feel important.  Generally, the sources of happiness include such things as autonomy, income and status, respect, fame, learning new things, challenges in general, security, consistency, friends, family, experiences, and material possessions that replicate some or at least one of the above.  These things bring us more or less happiness during our lives depending on what else we have, and how other feelings interact.

Determining what you derive happiness from and those things that you don’t is the key to better estimation of your future happiness.  Do you like the experience of travel?  Does this bring you happiness both during the actual event, seeing amazing sites and history, things as they once were, learning about it before your trip, showing off your photos to friends and co-workers, and being able to relive the travel experience in memories for years?  What is that worth to you?  Is it worth more than the benefits of a more powerful car or a new car instead of a new one?  To me, certainly not.  I’d much prefer to travel and drive a used car for all the other time.  Others don’t feel that way, and instead pour money into their rides, custom stereos, slick rims, whatever else folks do to their cars.  For some people, this really does bring them happiness, or at least they think it does.  If it does, more power to you.

Making music makes you happy?

Making music makes you happy?

Of course this all relates back to the Ritual Practices that we follow here at the Cult Of Money.  I don’t care what brings you happiness, but you should expend more of your time and effort into those things that bring you lasting happiness, not the transitory type of happiness that dies out the second time you wear or use it.  Take a while and think about happiness, what types of things flow happiness to you and what those things take from you or are lost to opportunity costs.

Readers, what brings you happiness?  Some folks out there have bucket lists, is everything on the list those things that bring you the most happiness, or are you trying the shotgun approach to try and find happiness?  What makes you happy?  Can you calculate or estimate what brings you more happiness now and in the future?

About Karl

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23 Responses to How to be Happy

  1. WorkSaveLive says:

    I’m in the process of creating a bucket list; I sat down a few weeks ago and wrote down about 30 things but I haven’t gotten back to it since. Whoops.

    Happiness for me involves a few things but primarily it boils down to having time to spend with family, friends, and my wife. I would love to be able to help people without NEEDING a paycheck in return. I love to travel and I enjoy leisure. Material things don’t really interest me too much…I’d rather have memories.

    • Karl says:

      I’m right there with you, memories are great, especially if you can continue making them and don’t need to rely on just the ones from “back in the day”…

  2. Nick says:

    I have so many lists but the one I don’t have is a bucket one… I need to put that on the “to do list” …

    For me it’s definitely freeing up time to buy years of my life back. The way I see hard work now is that I give up a couple of hours a day to free up weekends and years on the back end. That makes me pretty happy – knowing that I still have some great QT w/ my family and will get to enjoy my family at a relatively younger age.

    • Karl says:

      Nick, the only downside that that calculus is if something unexpected happens, whatever that may be, could really effect those plans. I’ve been gradually transitioning to a more balanced lifestyle over the last few years. Heck, I used to work crazy hours and had an airplane commute every week, so at this point just being home feels good. 🙂

  3. Modest Money says:

    I think true happiness comes from within. With the right mindset, you can be happy in any situation. It doesn’t have to be about what kind of possessions you have or where you can afford to travel to. You can find all kinds of things to keep you happy that don’t cost a lot of money. People just get into a way of thinking that they need certain things in their life to achieve lasting happiness. Think of all the people who will never be able to afford those things and yet still find happiness. Personally I find that connecting with nature makes me happy. So I’ve been trying to do that more lately. Sure I’d like to buy certain things, but that won’t necessarily make me happier.

    • Karl says:

      I’ve started to ponder opening some type of Buddhist monastery somewhere remote so people can spend some time to find focus and purpose in their life. Just in the idea stage at this point. Kind of like those cooking class vacations to Italy or something similar, just with a lasting impact on your life…

  4. I’m always thinking about my future and what I need to do to make myself happy in the future. Like you said – LONG-TERM happiness and not just short-lived happiness. That’s why I sacrifice a lot right now and I tell myself that it’s just for right now. I’m hoping that this will lead to happiness that lasts for a lifetime. Right now though, the little things make me happy – no lines at Starbucks, saving money, spending time with family and friends, and planning for the future.

    • Karl says:

      Right on! The sacrifices now will certainly pay off in the future, just make sure that you’re finding some happiness in the present as well. All work and no play and all. But you do need to get yourself into the position to take advantage. keep working hard and you’ll have what you want.

  5. “you should expend more of your time and effort into those things that bring you lasting happiness” <– I like that a lot. And it's true. That donut today will only make me happy while I'm in my truck on my way to a job, but saving that money for a cruise with my wife will bring us both more long-lasting and memorable happiness.

    • Karl says:

      I’ve really been trying to focus on those things that bring me happiness, as I have limited time, energy and money, why not get the best bang for the buck? Especially since there are so many possibilities out there in the world. Donuts are one of my weaknesses, but I generally do a good job resisting. Long lasting happiness and memories, that’s what I’m saving most of the cash for.

  6. jefferson says:

    This is the big question for all of us, right? How to be happy. And how to find happiness that lasts. We can all find fleeting happiness in moments, but true happiness is harder to attain.

    What you really have to work towards, is being satisfied with what you already have, and realizing that true happiness is already here and within your reach. Stop wanting for that vacation or that new toy that will finally bring your joy, and accept that you can have it right now if you just change your mindset.

    • Karl says:

      Yes the Buddhist way is a true study in how to be happy isn’t it? The man satisfied with what he has will never be poor. Difficult at times to implement, given all the Jones’s out there to keep up with, even for the best of us.

  7. This is a toughy, because we all want to be happy and secure, both now and down the road. How can you truly be happy now if you know you’re sacrificing your future happiness? Double-edged sword, I think.

    In my family, my grandmother is obsessed with dying a millionaire, and tends to make herself financially unhappy because of this goal. I’ve told my parents they can leave me nothing when they die, because I’d rather they enjoy the money they worked hard to make. My plan is to do the same as my parents, and to make sure that I haven’t been a financial burden on my children.

    • Karl says:

      one of my favorite quotes from Oceans 12 I think, is the old guys quote about wanting the last check he writes before he dies to bounce. That would be the ideal planning, especially since I don’t have kids…

  8. Making a bucket list is on my bucket list. Unfortunately money does play a role because I have to work in order to get it. I guess happiness is a journey, rather than a destination.

    • Karl says:

      I think it’s both. Happiness is a destination, but it’s also the journey. As in I’m trying to be happy every day (the journey), but I’m also willing to sacrifice now for happiness in the future (the destination).

  9. AverageJoe says:

    It’s funny. I used to concentrate on what makes me happy, but then I learned that I’m a pretty social person (being an introvert and social person is quite the contradiction, but I manage). I’ve found that I’m happiest when those around me are happy. If I achieve my “bucket list moment” with friends who aren’t happy being there, I’m gonna have a crappy time.

    So, usually it’s running or good music or a glass of wine with friends that makes me happy.

    • Karl says:

      That is fantastic that you can be happy while also being healthy and social. Do you run with others, or do you usually run alone and are happy in your thoughts as an introvert?

  10. Shilpan says:

    Happiness comes from within. For me, it’s about building school for poor kids and teaching them my favorite subjects(math ans science). I wanted to be the best father for my two daughters by being their best friend.

  11. […] How to be happy from Cult of Money […]

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  13. Happy says:

    Great post – very inspiring. Thank you!
    For most people, finding happiness is like a goal of life. And trying to achieve this goal makes life less simple and more complex. But I feel that the more you are looking the less chance you have finding it. Happiness is not something that can be found, happiness is something that can be felt. People should stop looking around and should start looking inside of themselves. Happiness is a feeling that is inside you and the only thing you have to do is find it. Happiness is a state of mind that is powered by your inner feelings. Find those feelings and you find happiness.
    Best regards and lots of good posts for the future.
    Ms Happy aka Mia

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