Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do You Want To Be Happy?

Why do we make choices that we don’t think will make us happy? It’s a question economists from Cornell University have been grappling with, according to The Telegraph.

The question they put to people was whether they’d prefer to take a job with modest pay with the prospect of getting more sleep, or a much higher paying role with “unusual hours” and six hours sleep max. Most chose option B. And more chose it than said they expected it would make them happy.

Why? Some chose the more demanding job because they thought it would make their family happier. Others felt it would give them a greater sense of purpose in life, or better social standing.

One big implication, according to a PhD student involved in the study, is that governments thinking about designing policies to make people happy might end up thrusting something on people they wouldn’t choose for themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time!

But it feels like there’s more to this. Most of the motivations people had for choosing the more demanding option were things that would make them happy anyway. Like the happiness of others. Or a meaningful job. Or being recognized for making a difference.

It just happens they weren’t pursuing happiness as a goal in itself. Which is probably the secret to finding the deepest happiness you can get.

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