A Pragmatic Approach to Happiness

One Method That May Point You in the Right Direction

I’m fortunate enough to live in a country that consistently achieves a top 10 rank on the world’s happiest nations list (Canada). It’s an amazing place with a lot to see. So it got me thinking and eventually I came to ask questions like; why are people in these (top 10) countries so happy? And what does happiness look like at an individual level? And is happiness really achievable? The research says yes, so lets take a look at the some of its determinants.

One of my professors gave me some advice “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I think he’s right. There is a lot of cross over between life and work, and your happiness from one area will, inevitably, spill over into the other so this post will revolve around our jobs and how that affects happiness.

Now, there are five main factors that determine your satisfaction at work.

Enter The Five Factor Model

• Extraversion – The degree to which a person is outgoing vs. shy

• Emotional Stability/Neuroticism – The degree to which a person has appropriate emotional control

• Agreeableness  – The degree to which a person is friendly and approachable

• Conscientiousness – The degree to which a person is responsible and achievement oriented

• Openness to Experience – The degree to which a person thinks flexibly and is receptive to ideas

These are all personality traits that every one exhibits. However, the really happy people have a tendency to favour certain ones. Researchers have found that its possible to gauge a person’s likelihood of being satisfied with work and life.

The strongest predictor of happiness here is conscientiousness. Extraversion and agreeableness are highly correlated with happiness as well. The strongest predictor of anti-happiness is neuroticism. What does that mean? Don’t over think the small stuff, go for emotional stability. (That person may have been rushing to the hospital and completely forgot to say thank you.) Go for a run (endorphins), watch a comedy, or just choose a different thought (this takes a lot of practice).

The Take Away

People who are more happy have a tendency to exhibit certain traits. These are Conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness. This is good news for people that were born with these attributes. However, if these traits don’t come naturally to you and you want to see if this stuff really isn’t just a bunch of nonsense, you can try it out. It’s possible to learn this stuff with a reasonable amount of effort. Check out Amy Cuddy’s work in this area for a better understanding. Even if you don’t live in a “happy” country, you can make a change for yourself.

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