Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • If I do my job in the next few minutes I'm going to give you the secret to happiness

  • so that when you go home tonight you can start living a happier life

  • and you can start sharing with more people so that they can have

  • a happier life too. So let's start with what we know about happiness.

  • There have been hundreds, literally hundreds, of studies

  • by economists and social scientists and psychologists about happiness,

  • hundreds over the past thirty and forty years. And basically they all start by

  • asking the question: who's happy?

  • In the United States we know that all the way back to the 1970s a

  • very stable proportion of the population is very happy.

  • About a third of Americans say anonymously

  • and in accurate tests an accurate surveys that they're very happy people.

  • Okay, we have no reason to doubt that this is true. A little over fifty percent say

  • they're somewhat happy,

  • about 10 to 15 percent of the population is chronically depressed and say they're

  • not very happy.

  • Okay now, that's actually not the most interesting question. The most

  • interesting question is what brings happiness.

  • And we know the answer to that too. It's three things,

  • three things bring happiness: genetics,

  • big life events, and choices.

  • And I'm going to tell you about all three, starting with genetics.

  • Now, a few years ago social scientists at the University of Minnesota

  • constructed a wonderful database that included seventy five pairs of identical

  • twins born between the mid-1930s and the mid 1950s.

  • Now they were separated at birth and adopted by separate families.

  • It's like a social scientist's dream it's almost as if the government had done this.

  • And at age 40 they were reunited and they were given a personality test, so

  • they were asked about the things that were going on their lives and the way that they

  • viewed their lives.

  • This is really interesting because you've got DNA carbon copies

  • of each other and they have different upbringings so you can net out the parts

  • that are nature and the parts that are nurture, statistically, and what did they find?

  • They found that 48 percent of their happiness is genetic. As a matter of fact they found that more

  • of their personality was genetic than they ever understood before. Forty percent of

  • how you vote is genetic

  • forty percent of how you worship is genetic, so

  • this explains some things. Do you have someone in your life who is

  • chronically happy? Do you have a coworker who's happy all the time?

  • It's very irritating, by the way, and so it sometimes you wonder, that person is

  • just happy all the time.

  • What are they doing right? What's their secret? Their secret is

  • their DNA. Are you a grumpy person are you

  • dark and brooding. It's your DNA it's not your fault, you have lousy parents

  • is basically what it comes down to. So if that's the case

  • does it really matter what we do? The answer is yeah because if half of it is taken away

  • from you you better get the other half right.

  • Now forty-percent is genetic but there are other innate qualities, other innate

  • characteristics that are really important,

  • the most interesting of which is gender.

  • Who's happier, men or women? The answer is women.

  • Most studies, the overwhelming majority of studies, find that women are happier

  • than men and always have been.

  • Okay I mean it's too bad guys but I studied this myself and I find the same

  • thing. I've looked at the happiness of men and women by marital status.

  • K and what do we find? Married women are happier than married men,

  • single women are happier than single men, widowed women are way happier than widowed men.

  • What's so funny about that?

  • I told that one to my wife

  • and she says, "Oh, no kidding."

  • In general women are happier than men.

  • Here's another interesting mystery: what's the average

  • unhappiest age in a man's life? I'd heard about this phenomenon forever, so have you,

  • this is the male mid-life crisis, right? When do you think it is?

  • 70, 17

  • That doesn't count, only grown ups. 45

  • 45 it's 45 that is exactly right. 45 is the average unhappiest age in a man's life.

  • And it goes something like this:

  • the trajectory of life for men is interesting and

  • sometimes a little sad. See, when you're in your twenties

  • and thirties the life recipe is actually kind of simple.

  • Life is like a super highway when you're in your twenties and thirties

  • if you want to get ahead and you want to have a better life and you want to be happier and more successful

  • just hit the gas. Just look for more money

  • and look for a better career and look for more promotions and it's simple.

  • The problem is on the superhighway guys get to age 45

  • and a bunch of them stop and they say

  • "I think I'm on the road. I don't want to be on the superhighway, but

  • I can't stop because I've got the house payment and I've got all this stuff.

  • It's hard, I'll get hit or get in an accident if I stop, it'll be bad

  • if I stop, a whole lot of guys find.

  • Now, ok, next question: what do they want?

  • Staying on the same metaphor, what they want is to be on another road

  • that they picked themselves they want to be on a little dirt road

  • with a motorcycle on it where the driver is not wearing a helmet.

  • That's what they want so who's the guy on the motorcycle because the secret to happiness

  • is being the guy on a motorcycle without the helmet. So I want to know who he is.

  • Tell me about it. I know who he is. He is me.

  • And I'll tell you how it works. When I was 19,

  • I dropped out of college. Dropped out, kicked out,

  • splitting hairs.

  • I ran off to play music for a living.

  • I was a French horn player, that was all I wanted to do. I wound up in the Barcelona symphony

  • by my my late twenties. It was great, I love the music, I still love the music,

  • it's the best music ever written. Seems like a dream, right?

  • But I got a glimpse of my forty five year old self.

  • I got to look in the crystal ball, it was all the guys working with me,

  • who were usually 20-30 years older than me, who around 45 had

  • kind of lost their happiness and now they were drinking a little too much and their

  • marriages weren't so good and they didn't like the music so much.

  • And I said I don't want to be those guys, so I got lucky.

  • Because I saw it and I hatched a plan, I hatched a plan to

  • to escape and I decided to go back to college.

  • And I called my dad and I said, "Dad I got big news! I'm going to quit music.

  • I'm going to go back to college. I'm going to study, I don't know, literature, physics,

  • poetry, or economics or something. It's going to be great.

  • I'm going to use my brain. My dad said

  • "What are you talking about? You started a family,

  • you're doing fine, it's very irresponsible to just

  • quit when you're in your late twenties, why?"

  • I said, "Dad, because I'm not happy.

  • And I don't think I'm going to be happy.

  • And there's a long pause and he says "So what makes you so special?"

  • Today I'm doing what I love. Today I'm doing what I feel like I'm called to do.

  • Today my job is to talk to you about how to have a happier life.

  • What a miracle. Now it's not good enough for people to accidentally find the way

  • we need to find it on purpose. Okay so innate differences:

  • genetics, forty-eight percent. The next big one

  • is big life events. This is what you think really drives your happiness.

  • You want to be happy? Go for your goals. You got these big goals in life and avoid

  • the bad stuff, right?

  • You think about it all the time. If only I can graduate from college with a good

  • enough GPA to get a good job, then I'll be happy,

  • right? If only I get into law school then I'll be happy if only that girl will marry me

  • then I'll be happy, and if I don't get sick I won't be unhappy,

  • right? If I don't have an accident I won't be unhappy. We think

  • in this way we are very goal-oriented creatures.

  • Now how much of our life happiness at any particular point

  • comes from the big things good and bad? Answer is

  • forty-percent. That's a lot. It seems like you're absolutely right to be chasing the big

  • thing in any particular moment, trying to avoid the big bad thing

  • at any particular moment but that's wrong. It's forty percent

  • but I'm going to tell you why not to chase it.

  • Two reasons: number one is we're very bad

  • at getting the things that we're seeking, the big goals that we're seeking,

  • but more importantly the big things never last.

  • How long will your mood be improved if you get that dream house?

  • Six months. If I double your pay, how long

  • will it improve your mood? Up to six months, no more.

  • No matter what you do it's going to wear off, the big stuff wears off.

  • But the costs of doing these big things last forever.

  • Don't chase the big thing. There's one study that really points this out.

  • The most interesting study I've ever seen.

  • From 1978 actually it's an old study, but it's still classic.

  • And it compares two groups of people: quadriplegics,

  • and people who win the lottery. What do these people have in common?

  • A huge punctuation to the equilibrium BOM

  • bad or good right? Now quadriplegics

  • six months after their accidents, on average, their happiness has returned

  • almost to its level prior to their accident.

  • That's what the study shows. Now not all the way but almost all the way.

  • See how durable we are? Six months later they would they still say I would do almost anything

  • to get to be able to control my arms and legs to not be confined to a wheelchair,

  • but their happiness is something that is innate,

  • and has to do with other forces. Okay, that's fine study number one,

  • number two is lottery winners. This one's actually even a little bit more interesting.

  • Six months after you hit the lottery the average lottery winner

  • has permanent baseline happiness levels that are slightly

  • below where they were the day before they bought the ticket.

  • Literally the best thing that can happen to you when you buy a lottery ticket

  • is that you don't win. Why? We know this too.

  • It's because they've blown their circuits. The little things in life

  • don't make them happy. Think about what is going to make you happy this weekend.

  • Hanging out with loved ones, it's doing the things that

  • give you a little bit of gratification with the people who make you happy.

  • You're going to watch some sports,

  • you probably go out to dinner, you're going to be around people who you're

  • comfortable with and you're going to joke around, have a great time.

  • Turns out people who win the lottery don't get that anymore. All of their hobbies

  • are dross their friendships are all different they don't enjoy the little

  • things they used to enjoy anymore.

  • So they go in search for more flavor. The truth is

  • if you want to be happy, don't spend your time obsessing about the great big splash.

  • What you need are habits that will give you the highest likelihood of getting that

  • forty percent

  • that will drive these events most likely into your life

  • and drive the bad things out of your life in a regular

  • framework as a regular type of discipline.

  • So what are these lifestyle elements?

  • And this brings us to the last 12 percent remember forty-eight is genetics,

  • 40 percent is events, you got 12 percent left, that 12 percent you have left

  • are under your control.

  • And if you do the things you need to do to get the maximum from the 12 percent

  • you're also going to raise the likelihood of getting the forty percent because this

  • gives you the best lifestyle to give you the best luck.

  • So what we need to know now are the things and there are four of them,

  • that will give you the 12 percent. And this is where the knowledge is power.

  • This is where you get to walk out of here ready

  • to invest in your happiness portfolio and be a happier person starting tonight.

  • Here's the good news: simple, available to everybody,

  • and easy to understand. Here are the four: faith,

  • family, community, and work.

  • Those are your big four. That's your happiness portfolio.

  • Don't waste your time on other stuff. Because if you do, you're going to be going in the wrong

  • direction. Family, I mean

  • I'm sorry, faith is pretty obvious. The interior life, I'm not going to tell you which faith,

  • but thinking about the transcendental, thinking about the things that are not

  • of this world, and

  • incorporating them into your life. Family, having solid family relationships, these

  • are the things that can't and shouldn't go away.

  • Community is a little bit more complicated, the elements of community are

  • cultivating important friendships

  • and being charitable in your community being a charitable person toward others.

  • That's what it means to have community in your life. I'm not going to spend my time 0:12:43.389,0:12:45.070 on faith, family, and community.

  • I'm going to spend the rest of my time on work, because that's the counter intuitive one.

  • Work is such a big deal, you watch "The Office,"

  • you read Dilbert cartoons, right? Work is just a drag, right?

  • At least for other people, you probably like your job, but other people,

  • probably not so much. What percentage of Americans like or love their jobs?

  • What percentage of Americans are satisfied or very satisfied with their work?

  • Right, think about it, get a number in your head, you're thinking twenty,

  • 25 percent, eighty-nine percent.

  • Eighty-nine percent of americans are either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

  • What an incredible thing. No other country comes even remotely close,

  • why? Why? Because of money?

  • No, that's not one of the big four, I didn't say faith, family, community, work and money.

  • No, money's not on the list, and in truth many economists, including me,

  • we've studied the effects of money on happiness. Money

  • does bring happiness by relieving pressure to people who are poor,

  • up to the level of the lower middle class, then it flattens out a lot.

  • Brings a little bit but it takes a lot of money at higher income levels to

  • bring any sort of satisfaction.

  • Right, so money is really not it, it's something else. What

  • is it that brings so much happiness to so many people from work?

  • Besides the guys who're bummed out at age 45.

  • So what is it? We've looked and we've looked and we found it,

  • we found it. It's earned success.

  • It's the belief that you're creating value with your life and value in the lives of

  • other people.

  • Earned success is truly the key to happiness

  • through work. If you believe that you're serving

  • others and you're creating value with everything you do I don't care what you

  • do because

  • people who believe that they've earned their success and are happy in their work

  • are the same whether they have a college degree or a high school degree

  • or no high school degree, whether they have above-average incomes

  • or below average incomes, whether