The ‘You decide’ blog rebuttal: Your 40% solution to happiness.

Following on from my last blog, ‘You decide’, a few comments enquired into how to ‘put on’ your mood as well as a fair amount of scepticism from others on the simplification of the message. So, in response I thought I would share some information by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a prominent researcher who has spent the last 18 years studying human happiness, making significant personal contributions to this science. Her research has most notably focused on the architecture of sustainable happiness.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, we are all born with a baseline of happiness, a happiness ‘set point’ to which we return to after significant positive or negative events. It is estimated that this set point accounts for about 50 per cent of differences between people’s levels of happiness. 

A further 10 per cent of happiness is accounted for by circumstance. This sounds initially counterintuitive as most people believe that circumstances account for a much higher percentage. However, if we understand the process of ‘hedonic adaptation’ (an observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes), also know as the hedonic treadmill, we can better understand the fact that life circumstances, like wealth and health, only have a short-term and limited influence on happiness… See the picture example below.

This leaves us with 40%. We have the power to control 40% of our happiness through behaviour and actions such as ‘intentional activities’. Our ability to become happier is therefore dependent on the management of our inner world i.e. our emotions mind, and the actions that consequently follow on from these. Lyubomirsky similarly stresses the importance of sustained and committed effort. If we consider the creation of happiness a worthwhile goal, we need to invest the same amount of effort required when undertaking any other perceived worthwhile endeavour in life.

The challenge for all of us lies in transforming the happiness ‘activity’ into a habit so that it becomes second nature, possibly even a ritual. Effort and commitment are required in the beginning but this effort gradually disparate as it becomes a natural and integral part of our life. 

Thus the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic makeup (which is impossible) and not in changing our circumstances i.e. seeking wealth or attractiveness or better colleagues, (which is usually impractical), but in our daily intentional activities.

Although it’s not possible for me to tell you what intentional activities will give you happiness, in my next blog I will share the FISH! Philosophy, a language to help guide you to discover how you can create a culture and workplace that encourages people to flourish and increase productivity… But in the meantime the journey is yours to discover. 

Information cited from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book ‘The How Of Happiness’.

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