Vincent Avatar

Hamlet was my introduction to the Danes; Him and Danny Kaye prancing around a Hollywood set as Hans Christian Andersen.

According to the Gallup World Poll Denmark is the “happiest place on earth.”  Forbes says this is because “good times probably have more to do with the size of your wallet…” and quotes the developer of the happiness poll at Gallup:

“The Scandinavian countries do really well,” says Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup, which developed the poll. “One theory why is that they have their basic needs taken care of to a higher degree than other countries. When we look at all the data, those basic needs explain the relationship between income and well-being.”

Forbes goes on to say:

The Gallup researchers found evidence of what many have long suspected: money does buy happiness–at least a certain kind of it. In a related report, they studied the reasons why countries with high gross domestic products won out for well-being, and found an association between life satisfaction and income.

Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5, believes there is a difference between “happiness” and “satisfaction.” And I agree.

In his TEDx Copenhagen presentation he defines “job happiness” as how you feel about your job and “job satisfaction” as what you think about your job. The difference being the former is something you look forward to and enjoy, while the latter is something that satiates your needs (e.g. good salary, good health plan, decent work environment, etc.)

In life, Alexander says the keys to happiness are a good romantic relationship – He says men in good romantic relationships live 6% longer (women, 2%) than lonely guys – close friends (not the 200 plus acquaintances on Facebook), meaningful work – He says this means you’re doing something you enjoy and find meaning in (it’s not necessarily being CEO or making six-figures) – and success – this is sort of a “chicken or the egg” conundrum because according to Alexander you need happiness for success but you can’t have success without happiness.

Penelope Trunk (one of my favorite bloggers and the reason I started blogging) says we overemphasize happiness and that she would prefer an interesting life to a happy one.

She says the difference is:

people who are happy do not look for a lot of choices, according to Barry Schwartz, in his book, The Paradox of Choice. People who want to have an interesting life are always looking for more choices and better choices, and they make decisions for their life based on maximizing choices.

While I agree with Alexander on the distinction between happiness and satisfaction, I agree more with Penelope when it comes to choosing happiness; Maybe the choice is first whether you want a happy life or an interesting life and then choosing how you will achieve it.

Penelope says too many choices makes a person unhappy because they would eventually want to “trade up” or “maximize/optimize” on whatever they decided/chose. She says that’s why New Yorkers report themselves to be unhappy because they always want the next best thing.

I’m biased. I grew up in New York (Queens to be exact). I hated it in high school. Moved away from it for college – and stayed away until after graduation when a poor economy brought me back. Now I can’t imagine life anywhere else.

What Penelope says about the type of person who thrives in New York makes sense. She says they are maximizers (people who are always looking to trade up to the “next best thing”), strive to be at the top of their field, and prefer an interesting life to a happy one.

While I don’t believe my life is unhappy, there is more I would like to do. But isn’t that everyone? Isn’t everyone in the perpetual pursuit of happiness? As I get older, I learn to appreciate the “small moments” – the quiet moments – a “good day.” However, this doesn’t mean I have become complacent despite appearances.

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