What makes us happy? Alexis de Tocqueville vs. Kanye West

What makes us happy? Alexis de Tocqueville vs. Kanye West

This morning I published the following article in The Happiness Institute's free eNewsletter…

By Samuel McNerney

I'm a big Kanye West fan. He is an immensely talented individual who has sold more albums and gathered more acclaim than most musicians have in several life times. His widespread artistic reverence is well deserved too; as a producer, lyricist, and performer he is one of the best. Yet, the most intriguing part of Kanye is how fame and glory have negatively influenced his well-being.

Here is a man who is deeply troubled. At his core, he yearns for honest social connections, and has a difficult time understanding why he doesn’t have them. On the track, "Welcome to Heartbreak," he sings, "my friend show me pictures of his kids… all I can show him [is] pictures of my cribs," to confess that his financial trophies seem worthless in the face of family; and on "Runaway," he explains that he is "so gifted at findin’ what [he] don’t like the most," to admit that he is never satisfied with the women he meets. In a world where he has access everything, he feels as if he has nothing.

His problem is choice: he simply has too much of it.

This idea is what many call the  paradox of choice, where the issues of discontent are perpetuated every time we are given more options. Psychological data demonstrate that when there is an option for everything – Coke, Diet Coke, Coke with Lime, Coke with Lemon, Coke Zero, Diet Coke Caffeine Free – choosing becomes more difficult and people suffer.

Here’s what happens: 1) people actually have a harder time deciding when there are too many options, 2) people think that there is no reason why they should not be able to chose optimally given the abundance of options, and 3) when people do not chose optimally, which is usually the case, they experience regret. As psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains, "the more choices there are, the more you expect to find a perfect fit; yet, at the same time, the larger the array, the less likely it becomes that you picked the best item. You leave the store less confident in your choice, more likely to feel regret, and more likely to think about the options you didn’t choose."

The paradox of choice is nothing knew…

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But also, keep reading below for some practical applications of this interesting and at times challenging concept. 

CHOOSE to be happy now! 

Here at The Happiness Institute, we believe happiness is something you choose. And we’ve specifically chosen the word “choose” because each of its letters stands for one of our key happiness strategies.

C =  Clarity (of goals, direction and life purpose)

Happy people set clear goals and determine clear & specific plans to ensure these goals become reality.  So clarify your life plan now (because no one else will do it for you!).

H =  Healthy Living (activity & exercise, diet & nutrition, and sleep)

Health forms a crucial part of the foundation to happiness.  It’s hard to be  happy if  you’re  literally  sick  &  tired  all  the  time.    So  do  whatever  you  can  to  be  healthy and you’ll also boost your chances of being happy. 

O =  Optimism (positive but realistic thinking)

There’s no doubt that happy people think about themselves, others and the world differently.  Among other things, they search for more positives.  The good news is that this is something you can learn to do so start practicing now.

O =  Others (the key relationships in your life)

Research strongly indicates that happy people have both more and better quality relationships.  So make sure you devote time to developing and fostering your key relationships. 

S =  Strengths (your core qualities and attributes)

Rather than spending all their time trying to “fix” their “weaknesses”, happy people spend more time identifying and utilising their strengths.  Find out what you’re good at and do it as much as possible. 

E =  Enjoy the moment (live in, and appreciate the present)

The past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today’s a gift – that’s  why they call it “the present”.  Live in the moment and enjoy life more.

If you like this and if you'd like to download a copy to post somewhere in your home or workplace, then feel free to choose to CLICK HERE to go to our free resources section!