Critically Thinking About Happiness

Our opponents want us to be unhappy. Will we cooperate?

Despite what we might be inclined to think, there are relatively few universal commonalities in this world. One of the most important ones is: EVERYONE is motivated by happiness — from Putin to Mother Theresa!

There is within every soul a thirst for happiness and meaning. — Thomas Aquinas

Once you put on those glasses and start looking for it, it’s amazing just how much of the world (and our lives) revolves around the desire for happiness. That’s no surprise you say, because after all, who doesn’t want to be happy? Yes, it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazingly nuanced and complex.

On close inspection, there are some interesting facts about Happiness. For example, consider the following:

1 – Considering the universality of our interest in happiness, there is a surprising divergence in the definition of what happiness actually is! Part of the challenge is that there are look-a-likes that we can easily be fooled by — e.g., pleasure and enjoyment.…

See why there are substantial psychological and chemical differences between these and happiness, by reading a bit more about pleasure and enjoyment.

2 – Although humans have a shared interest in happiness, different things make different people happy. For example, I might really enjoy going out to play golf, while you may find golf boring, exasperating, too long, etc., etc.

3 – On the other hand, an example of a happiness commonality is that making others happy, usually results in the initiator also being happy.

If you want happiness for an hour—take a nap. If you want happiness for a day—go fishing. If you want happiness for a year—inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime—help someone else. —Chinese Proverb

4 – Although we probably intuitively know it, scientific research indicates that happiness is contagious!

5 – A major factor in our happiness is whether we are searching for immediate gratification or do we find delayed gratification more rewarding…

For a wide variety of reasons, delayed gratification is MUCH better (e.g., see here) — but we are continually bombarded with the opposite message.

6 – These days we hear an incessant amount about things like equity and fairness — but will equity or fairness actually bring real happiness? The evidence says no.

7 – Here’s a significant critical thinking question to ponder: is happiness caused by something external, or is it internal?

“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” —Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

8 – IMO a major key to happiness is perspective.

Here’s a situation that came up years ago when I was teaching high school kids a weekly evening CCD class. There were about 20 in my class, and one evening a girl asked for help. She dearly loved her younger (by 2 years) sister, but the sister showed her no respect. For example, she frequently came home to find that her sister had rifled through her closet and had “borrowed” some clothes, Not only she didn’t ask, but she had been politely told not to do that, several times. What to do?

I said that I understood how that could be really exasperating. Then I said: let’s say that next week you come home from school, and your mom pulls you aside. She says that she and your sister had just returned from the doctor’s office and had bad news. Your sister has inoperable cancer and will only likely live for a few months.

You then go up to your room and (sure enough) your sister has taken one of your best outfits. How do you feel about that now?

Note that to fix something, we usually want the other person to change. But here the other person didn’t change one bit — yet our feelings are completely different! What has changed here is this girl’s perspective on her sister’s behavior. Even though she doesn’t agree with her sister’s actions, she now sees that there are other things in life that are more important. So what initially caused her unhappiness, now is a source of great happiness! Perspective: go figure…

9 – Finally, when men and women are societally told that they should act in ways inconsistent with their nature, unhappiness is an all but guaranteed result. See this reasonable discussion. The trailer for the film Grinding America Down makes it clear that our enemies are purposefully sowing dissension and unhappiness. The more unhappy citizens are, the more likely they will be receptive to any change. Any!

10-Happiness starts with our answering a profound question: why do I exist? If God is not a key part of your answer, there is no way you can be genuinely happy. For more details see this spot-on short video. Also consider: Why Your Happiness Is So Important to God.

Some happiness quotes I thought were interesting:

  • Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. (Charles Spurgeon)
  • The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things. (Henry Ward Beecher)
  • God cannot give us true happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. (C.S. Lewis)
  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. (Helen Keller)
  • We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. (Charles Kingsley)
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go. (Oscar Wilde)
  • Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory. (Albert Schweitzer)
  • Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. (Carl Jung)
  • Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get. (Dale Carnegie)
  • Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. (Mother Teresa)
  • Jesus makes you happy in reality. The world tries to make you happy escaping from reality. (Jack Hyles)

©2023. John Droz, Jr. All rights reserved.

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