Happiness is the opposite of sadness. Extreme sadness is depression. It’s all just a simple spectrum despite modern society’s attempts to fragment it. Everyone can be plotted somewhere on the happiness spectrum. What it takes to achieve happiness is relative to a person’s expectations. In other words, how happy you are depends on what you think you deserve. If you get less than you expected, you will be sad. If you get what you expected, you will be content. If you get more than you expected, you will be happy. Happiness is based on what you expected to receive compared to what you actually received.
How much does a person think they deserve? This is mainly based on the amount of work a person does (i.e. quantity), and the value of that work (i.e. quality). For example, if a man works a lot, and his work is valuable, he expects a lot of money in return. He would be happy if he’s paid more than his high expectation. He would be sad if he’s paid less than his high expectation. Thus, being rich does not necessarily equate to happiness. Likewise, a man can have everything he wants in life and still not be happy. If he worked extremely hard and thus expected to have everything he wants, he may just be content. On the other end, a poor person is not necessarily sad. For example, a man may never work, and somehow still receive money. He deserves and expects nothing, yet receives something. Thus, he would be happy.
How much a person thinks they deserve is also based on what he or she knows about the work ethics and salary of others. Say, for example, everyone you know lives in your country and works extremely hard to earn 10 hours a day for $10. If you worked 10 hours a day and earned $20 and you would be very happy. There could be people in another country working 10 hours a day for $100, but you are unaware of their existence so you are still very happy. Thus, what it takes for a person to achieve happiness is relative. Happiness itself, however, is absolute and can and should be measured and compared. The happiness of a country’s population is more telling than any other statistic, like GDP. Happiness is the ultimate measure of success.
The average mentally-handicapped person is happier than the average person, which has led people to believe that ignorance is bliss. Sorry to be frank, but in the wild a mentally-handicapped person would be unhappy as he or she struggles to survive. However, in today’s modern civilization, mentally-handicapped people do not work long and hard hours, and yet they are cared for more than the average person, whether it’s from a random stranger on the street, government aid, family etc. Thus, most mentally-handicapped people receive more than they expect – happiness. So what makes a mentally-handicapped person happy is not the lack of intelligence but rather society’s incessant hospitality for needy individuals.
So does money buy happiness? It depends on whether the money was (hard-) earned or free. Free, undeserved money, such as winning the lottery, would definitely bring happiness. Hard-earned money may bring happiness, contentment, or even sadness. Again, if someone has high income, he or she may have worked extremely hard – so hard that the effort is not worth the money. Studies have found that there is no correlation between high income and happiness. They concluded that money does not buy happiness. What these studies fail to acknowledge is that high income comes easily for some people, which would make them happy, and through hard work for others, which would make them sad.
On the other end of the transaction are the people paying for goods and services. Here, happiness still comes from getting more than expected, and sadness from getting less than expected. It doesn’t matter what we are paying for; it can be amazing technology like in-flight Wi-Fi internet. We expect it to work as advertised, and we’re unhappy if it doesn’t. There’s more to overall happiness than material goods and services, though. There’s people, which money can’t really buy. But happiness still works the same way with friends and family. If you’re nice to a friend, you expect that friend to be nice to you. If that friend doesn’t meet your expectations, you’ll be sad, and if the person exceeds your expectations you’ll be happy.
An incongruity in the “you get what you put in” maxim arises in the case of human attraction, however. Oftentimes, when a man loves a woman but doesn’t know what to do, he’ll pay a lot of attention to the woman. He’ll make her his world, treat her especially well, follow her lead and let her decide on things. He’s applying the same maxim that works for everything else in life. The problem is that this is unattractive behavior to women; this is known as smothering or being a pushover or a “nice guy”. The result is very sad, unrequited love. Interestingly, this only works one way: if a woman pays a lot of attention to a man, he wouldn’t see her as unattractive.
© Buism 2012