Ultimately, what makes us happy? What makes our lives satisfying in the long run?
If Thomas Jefferson thought it was important to facilitate the pursuit of happiness, maybe we should think a bit about what that means in practice.
We can look inward for answers, but, at least for someone trained as a social scientist, the most direct way to tackle the question is just to go out and ask people -- lots of people.
You can count until you're blue in the face, but unless you actually talk to people, you're not going to know why they do what they do.
Nicholas A. Christakis & James Fowler:
Each additional happy friend increases a person's probability of being happy by about 9%.
Paul Graham asks what living in your city tells you. Living in the north Perimeter area for 6 odd years now has told me that everybody makes way, way more money than I do. It's not inspiring so much as it makes you sympathize with class warfare.
What if I want something more than the pale facsimile of fulfillment brought by a parade of ever-fancier toys?
To spend my life restlessly producing instead of sedately consuming?
Is there an app for that?
When you are working, studying, or pursuing a hobby, do you sometimes become so engrossed in what you are doing that you totally lose track of time?
That feeling is called flow.
If you never have that feeling, you should find some new activities -- whether work or hobbies.
You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.
The way to win is to work, work, work, work and hope to have a few insights.
Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on.
Let us look for the positive deviants.
Ultimately, life satisfaction requires more than just happiness. Sometimes, difficult choices can open the doors to future opportunities, and the short-run pain can be worth the long-run gain. Just as importantly, life satisfaction requires an ethical framework. Everyone needs such a framework. In the short run, it is possible that doing the ethical thing will make you feel, well, unhappy. In the long run, though, it is essential for a well-balanced and satisfying life.
You must have principles that you're willing to die for.
Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.
It's good to have a plan, but if something extraordinary comes your way, you should go for it.