The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Book is Transforming Me

By scrutinizing the fruits of hundreds of painstaking studies of well-being we have, first, dispelled some popular but mistaken ideas:

  • that few people are genuinely happy,
  • that wealth buys well-being,
  • that tragedies, such as disabling accidents, permanently erode happiness,
  • that happiness springs from the memories of intense, if rare, positive experiences (idyllic vacations, ecstatic romances, joy-filled victories),
  • that teens and the elderly are the unhappiest people,
  • that in their early forties, many men experience a traumatic midlife crisis,
  • that when their children leave home, women typically suffer an empty-nest syndrome,
  • that one sex is happier than the other,
  • that women’s employment erodes the quality of their marriages,
  • that subliminal tapes provide a happiness quick fix,
  • that African-Americans, women, and the disabled live with impoverished self-esteem,
  • that because miserable marriages more readily end in divorce today, surviving marriages are happier,
  • that trial marriages (cohabitation) reduce the risk of later divorce,
  • that opposites attract, and continue to find each other fascinating,
  • that half or more of married people have an affair,
  • that religious faith suppress happiness.

We’ve also pondered things that do enable happiness:

  • fit and healthy bodies,
  • realistic goals and expectations,
  • positive self-esteem,
  • feelings of control,
  • optimism,
  • outgoingness,
  • supportive friendships that enable companionship and confiding,
  • a socially intimate, sexually warm, equitable marriage,
  • challenging work and active leisure, punctuated by adequate rest and retreat,
  • a faith that entails communal support, purpose, acceptance, outward focus, and hope.

My purpose in writing this book has been more to inform than to prescribe or advise. It’s like Consumer Reports, which doesn’t tell us what to buy – because that has to depend on our personal needs and circumstances. But we’d be foolish to ignore its information when making choices. Similarly, let’s not be so smug or intellectually aloof that we shy away from using the new information about well-being in ways that could enhance our well-being.

- The Pursuit of Happiness

The key lessons for me were:

  1. Back off from materialism – stop being so focused on money.
  2. Stop comparing my life with others’ – I have many blessings.
  3. Behave my way to success – fake it until I make it.
  4. Find something to do in which I may lose myself in ‘flow’.
  5. Stop being so selfish (in the Objectivist sense) – individualism is anathema to well-being.

The most important thing for me to TRY to do is become more outgoing. This will be very tough, as it is counter to my personality.

The second most important thing is to find a new occupation...