Maximising Happiness

MaxHap paper

Right now Christine and I are experiencing one of the happiest periods in our lives. Just married, traveling the world… what could be better? One of the many great benefits of our current circumstances is that we have the time to think through the important questions we face as we plan out our lives together. As we’ve been discussing many of these questions they all seem to bubble up to an ultimate overarching question: How can we set ourselves up for lives full of happiness? How can we maximise happiness?

In tackling this question, there have been 3 topics we’ve started exploring:

1. Understanding what makes us happy.
We have a reasonable idea of what makes us happy at a high-level (e.g. being healthy, spending time with friends, success in our career, having a family etc.) but the devil is in the details. For example, I really enjoyed my career at LinkedIn but what exactly did I enjoy? Working at a consumer internet company? Working at a fast growing company? Leading a large team? Ownership over a large business line?… Only by understanding what makes me happy at this detailed level will I be able to properly determine the right next step in my career. Furthermore, another interesting component of understanding happiness is knowing how happy each aspect of life makes us (and over the longer term) so that we can appropriately balance the many competing priorities in our lives.

2. Making the right life decisions.
Understanding what makes us happy is the starting point but then we must also make the right life decisions if we are to maximise happiness. And I can tell you that right now it feels like we have a bunch of important life decisions to make. At the top of the list: Where do we want to live after our travels? What career moves do we want to make? When do we start a family? Not a day goes by when Christine and I don’t discuss these questions. The exploration of them will no doubt be a big part of our journey to maximise happiness.

3. Better dealing with things that can make us unhappy
No matter how well we do in making the right decisions to make us happy, there will inevitably be times when we feel less than happy. Things don’t always play out as expected, and furthermore, many of the happiest things in life require hard work that in the moment can feel difficult. While we consider ourselves to be people that generally have a positive outlook on things (in fact, I’d say Christine is one of the most positive people I know) one can always do better in this regard. Our initial exploration on ways to better deal with unpleasant things has led us to explore meditation. We already have thoughts to share on this topic but we’ll save that for future posts.

Exploring each of these 3 topics will no doubt be a dynamic and lifelong process. What makes us happy today may not be what we find to be important further down the road. And the set of decisions we have to face now will be very different to those even a few years from now.

Our plan is to make this an open exploration and to write on these topics regularly. By doing so we hope that we can share in this journey with our friends, family and all other readers of our blog. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and perspectives on this topic too.

More to come…

2 thoughts on “Maximising Happiness

  1. Hi CSW!

    I like your philosophy and think it will be important to keep focussed on the three things. I have been wanting to learn how to meditate but are lost on where to start. I definitely don’t want a middle aged hippy course with ppl who don’t believe in vaccination… I am too scientific and cynical for that. Do you have any tips?

    Also one thing that might be missing from your framework is making other people happy. Helping others is almost a sure fire way for personal happiness!

    Sounds like you are doing great! AAT

    • Hey Andrew – thanks for your comment :). As for meditation, I have the exact same outlook on things. A great starting point for me was to read this book called “10% happier” by Dan Harris. He has a similar scientific and rational view on things and found meditation to be rewarding. At the end of his book he recommends a few useful books including a book by Sharon Salzberg (Real Happiness) that gives good tips on how to actually meditate. But start with 10% Happier.

      Your comment on “helping others” is totally on the mark. It absolutely leads to your own happiness. For now, I’d put it under the first bucket as part of the exploration of finding things that make you happy. For example, one activity I’ve always loved is volunteering and that’s something I generally try to make time for in my life.

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