Happiness Book Highlights

I just finished reading Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth book by Ed and Robert Diener. I find it the most entertaining and comprehensive books on happiness so far. The book describes psychological wealth, which includes life satisfaction and happiness. Even though I don’t agree with certain statements in the book, I’d like to point out some highlights.


Many people believe that their work is a drudge and their leisure is fun. But some activities are work for some and leisure hobbies for others. NBA players do for work what most of us do for fun – play and watch basketball. What farmers do for work, most of us do for fun – gardeners and hobby farmers. There is no clear line on what is work or leisure. Think about your job as something enjoyable half the battle. If you are not enjoying your job, perhaps you need to change job or change your attitude towards you job. Even if robots take over our chores, we will still do things we like to do.

When I was unhappy with my job, I couldn’t imagine what other job I could get to be happy. I feared that I will not be able to find anything better, but only worse, until one day I said to myself it is not about what I know or believe right now , not about being able to find a better job, it is about not being miserable now. I just didn’t see the point in living my life doing that job. It was the source of unhappiness for me and I decided to stop it.

There is misconception that some people complain no matter where they work. Not entirely true. People do find better jobs. I finally found the job I really like.

When people are the most happy at work, they like what they do and they can do it the way they want to do it, they utilize their core strengths and perceive their jobs meaningful.


Authors conducted a survey of 100 millionaires, out of which only 49 responded, 47 out of those said they were satisfied with their lives. It is possible that the rest 51 didn’t respond because they are not satisfied. But what is really important those who are satisfied said that they are happy not with the money itself, but pleasing family relationships, helping the world, fulfillment and pride from their work and accomplishments. So it is more about what you do with money than just having it.

Clearly there are well-off people who feel they don’t have enough money and there are people of modest means who feel that they have enough. No matter how much you earn, you can always want more, and feel poor along the way. Toxic effects of materialism or the “MBA trap” as I call it. It is all explained by one formula:

Happiness=What we have (attainments)/What we want (aspirations)


Individualistic societies tend to suffer from more social ills, such as divorce, suicide and homelessness while people in collectivistic societies can feel frustrated by their personal sacrifices. Take a moment and consider an unfinished sentence: “I’m…” What is interesting, in collectivistic societies people tend to finish it with words as roles like mother, woman, human, student, but in individualistic – with personal descriptions like hard-worker, beautiful, etc. In some cultures emotions, feeling, thoughts are not as important as actions or relationships. In Asian cultures happiness is more of a calm feeling of contentment compared to excitement in western countries.

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