On Happiness

Some ideas are very small and often known but reading them again sometimes puts everything in perspective. One such idea is to gauge happiness.

A few days ago, I was reminded of this through a thought experiment. Assume that there are two students taking the same course at a university. They work exactly the same number of hours and approximately put an equal amount of effort for this course. After the final exam, one student expects 90% marks while the other expects 70% marks. As the result comes out, both of them get 80% marks. The former will feel a sense of despair while the latter will experience a surge of happiness.

It turns out that happiness is related to the difference between expectation and reality. As expectations swell, so does the sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy. This is why we see so much negativity around us even today when we are possibly living in the best time of history in terms of comfort and peace.

One trick to avoid this conundrum is to keep our expectations close to zero. However, our expectations usually reside a little above what we deserve. One possible solution is to attach oneself with the daily effort but stay detached with the outcome. While doing that, we will measure our worth through the input energy going into the system rather than the results coming out. Since the former is in our control while the latter is not, there is no reason one shouldn’t call themselves a success in any case. A tremendous help can be provided here if one has a clear view of the big picture in life and the trajectories of both personal and world histories.

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