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Happiness is the Only Logical Pursuit

happybeerdwarfIf you set aside your fancy adult concerns for just a moment and think deeply, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this entire world is really just a giant zoo. It is a giant zoo packed with silly animals, and we’re just the one who takes itself most seriously.

Every speck of life exists simply to make copies of itself, from the simple gooey process by which single-celled organisms split in half every few minutes, up to the angst-ridden mating dance of complex letters that tomorrow’s world leaders are currently crafting in their college dorms and emailing to their boyfriends and girlfriends if they have the courage to click ‘send’.

As humans, we’re stuck at the top of this pyramid. We have become so complex that the reproduction part is just a footnote in our lives, so we move on to get caught up in interest rate predictions, celebrity magazines, war, philanthropy or fantasy football. We have created all of this complexity, a sloshing sea of ideas and activities completely unrelated to raising babies, and it’s all because of one underlying thing we’re all born with:  The Desire to Be Happy.

People do things, whether it’s making a baby, upgrading a pickup truck, or researching vaccines, because they think it will make them happy. Whether you’re just following a strong and sexy animal impulse, or giving away some money so that people on the other side of the world can live longer, the behavior comes from the same place – a desire to feel good.  But our feelgood activities vary widely because our complicated brains get pleasure for a wide variety of reasons.

Although it’s a little spooky to think about, it is essential to start with the biology: a realization that you are nothing more than a complex machine made of meat. Fleshy chunks, tubes, hormones and electrical signals are the underlying stuff that powers your deepest insights and emotions. So, in much the same way that fear is just a chemical, so happiness is mostly a squirt of Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and maybe a few Endorphins. If you’ve ever consumed mood-altering drugs including caffeine or alcohol, or found yourself in an inexplicably bad (or good) mood, you have already felt these things in action.

It is very useful to know all this stuff, because it helps protect you from taking your own moods too seriously. Even the deepest depression is just an unfavorable mix of brain chemistry. But it’s a poor gamble to try to solve all of life’s problems with prescription medication alone, when you can get more consistent and powerful happiness by going out and enjoying life in the real world.

When deciding how to make the most of this, it is usually helpful to look at the surprisingly insightful triangle known as Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

maslow1

Figure 1: Maslow’s Excellent Triangle

I first learned of this thing in history class when I was about 13 years old, and ever since it has been popping into my mind at the strangest and most useful times. While it was impressive even to my teenage self, I notice its wisdom seems to grow even more with each passing year.

It’s useful because it is so true. The first pleasures in life are the physiological ones that keep you alive: food, sleep, breathing, and so on. If you don’t have these, nothing else really matters. But if you have enough of them, you quickly start looking up the pyramid for the next level: security, or things that help save you from worrying too much.

If you have basic security, you are finally happy enough seek out family, intimacy, and friendship. From there, you move up to confidence, and earning and cherishing the respect of others. If you are lucky enough to have all of that going on, you get to roam around in the exotic land of self actualization, being creative and moral and working on personal growth.

How Consumerism Chips Away at the Pyramid

Oddly enough, the flaw in our rich world is a tripwire that we have set up way down at level 2: security. Our consumer culture encourages us to look upwards and earn respect, sexual intimacy, confidence, and even self actualization with the new Toyota Highlander or Ford F-150, when doing so actually destroys our security. By draining our money, luxuries like cars make us desperately insecure and dependent on constant employment. And by keeping us seated and inactive, they drain our strength and health so our lives become even more precarious.

maslow-smash

Figure 2: Effect of Ridiculous Vehicle Purchases on your Happiness Triangle

This is why Mustachianism is mostly about money and health – it’s supposed to be a bridge over the traps laid out by consumerism, so you can step over and move on up to the happier parts of the pyramid: family, confidence, and self actualization.

If you understand all this, you can start to really understand human happiness. To extract the most happiness from your life, your job is to intelligently press the reward buttons at each level of Maslow’s pyramid.

  • You get your first reward (level 1 of the pyramid) by eating enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy body. But you get no more by gorging on dinner and dessert every night in expensive restaurants.
  • Your next reward comes from ensuring safety and security for yourself and your loved ones. But there are no additional happiness points for owning multiple houses and boats scattered throughout the world.
  • Family and friends are the core of happiness for most of us, but there is a limit to how many people you can be truly close to. This is why fame and celebrity status don’t help us with our close relationships, (although they might help as a crutch for increasing self esteem at the next level).
  • At the top level, things get really wacky: some people give away significant portions of their time and money in the interest of helping others. It sounds noble, but it’s actually just another way to press your own reward buttons: by feeling helpful and essential, you complete your own life. The effect is so powerful that even people struggling in the bottom levels of the pyramid feel the joy of generosity. But on average, as we all become more secure, we have less interest in theft and more motivation to be kind to others.

In other words, because full-pyramid happiness automatically includes both feeling good, and being good, it makes sense that happiness is the best thing to work on in life.

But How do I Press The Buttons?

I found that just understanding Happiness 101 as I presented it above is a gigantic shortcut to living a happy life. Suddenly, you can start weighing every decision against that simple chart. On top of that, you can check your decisions against the wisdom of ancient philosophers, who were simply happiness researchers from the era before formal science.

To illustrate this compressed jewel of an answer to the Entire Purpose of Life, let’s throw it into the test arena with some real world scenarios:

Badassity  and Fitness vs. Convenience 

When raking leaves one fall day, you start to feel sweaty and tired. As if by magic, a Home Depot flyer comes in the afternoon mail which advertises gas-powered leafblowers at 50% off. You are tempted. But will this purchase make you happier?

If you are currently more muscular and lean than you’d like to be, and you have been searching for ways to reduce your fitness, then the leaf blower may be a great choice. On the other hand, if you have a shortage of health (which is pretty fundamental down at level 2 on the pyramid), you will generally find more happiness from any activities which increase it – raking, cycling, foregoing all elevators and escalators, and so on.

And physical fitness is not just an optional goal – it’s a fundamental creator of the happiness chemicals noted above. A simple daily walk is more powerful than most prescription antidepressants and artery-scrapers.

That’s an obvious example, but it translates to something much more emotional: the car. Upgrading the reliability of your car might indeed provide an increase in life security. Likewise, getting a more efficient car boosts your financial security, while also providing the self-actualizing benefits of “being less of an asshole to other people”. However, most car purchases are done for the opposite reasons – initial thrills aside, a full-sized pickup truck will bring only pain in the long run.

Novelty, Complexity, and Gadgets

What about novelty, like you buying an Apple watch or me buying a Nissan Leaf? We can justify it under the guise of “learning” or “streamlining our lives with efficient new apps”, but once again, it helps to check if we are really fixing anything in the pyramid.

Learning about a new gadget keeps you on top of technology and may speed up things like checking your heart rate or translating phrases during international travel. But does your life currently suck in any way due to the lack of heart rate data or the difficulty of using Google Translate on your existing phone? If not, you are unlikely to see a happiness boost.

My often-cited Craigslist electric car shopping mission is another good one to test. Buying an electric car would eliminate my spending on gas. But is my gasoline spending currently something I think about? No. It would also provide silent, speedier acceleration. But do I have a problem with the noise and rate of acceleration of my Scion xA? No again. In fact, my only justification for a Leaf is the self actualization it might provide when I wrote about it on this blog and heard that other people had replaced serious gas powered commutes with clean, cheap electric ones. But does my life currently suck due to a shortage of self actualization? That’s the only question I need to ask when deciding if I should buy this car.

In one sentence: Happiness Boosts come mainly from reducing Life Suck.

Producers Have More Fun Than Consumers

Which would you rather be: a dedicated fan celebrating your favorite band by lining up for $100 concert tickets, or a member of an amazing band, feeling the love of thousands of people as you share the grooves that you and some of your closest friends create together? If you’re not that into music, try the same trick on professional sports, founding a great company, writing, art, carpentry or gardening. Creativity sits right at the top of that pyramid, which means the rewards are high. Bonus: producing stuff earns you money, while consuming it costs you money.

Stoicism: The Surprising Life Boost from Embracing Voluntary Hardship

As these techniques get more advanced, you’ll find we move from changing your daily actions, up to training your mind. Stoicism is an easy form of mental barbell lifting that reminds you to appreciate what you have, and make a point of venturing out into unknown adventures and difficult conditions occasionally, just to refresh your appreciation of how good your life currently is. You can start your training on Stoicism by right clicking this article and opening it in a new tab for later reading: What is Stoicism and How Can it Turn Your Life to Solid Gold?

Buddhism: the Advanced Mental Ninja Leap Over Maslow’s Entire Pyramid

Saving the strangest but most powerful happiness booster for last, we arrive at Buddhism. I’m only a few books into this study, but its ideas are valuable even if summarized in one paragraph: Happiness comes from reducing your suffering. And suffering is what happens when you cling desperately to thoughts and observations and wish they were different, rather than just accepting them and letting your inner core remain content.

Another way to put this is in an equation: Suffering = Expectations – Reality.

For example: The beginner would say, “I’m cold! I don’t want to be cold – this sucks!”, while the Buddhist would think, “I feel a cool sensation on my skin. My body registers this as discomfort. That is all.”

Both beginner and Buddhist have thoughts flowing through their heads all day, like waves coming in to crash on a beach. But the beginner notices the negative thoughts and dives in, trying to fight them back: “I have to go to court next week! It’s scary! I might lose! This sucks!”, whereas the Buddhist would think, “There goes a thought about mangoes. And one of opportunities. And one of my court appointment next week. Like waves, each of my thoughts comes, and goes.”

Despite the obvious wisdom of older philosophers, I remain fully engaged with the world, enjoying table saws and craft brews and stock markets along with everyone else. But by simply pausing before each major life decision and comparing it to our real goal of a happy, satisfying life, we can keep the ship moving in a better direction and thus get more from life.

Further Reading: several people in the comments have asked about recommendations for books on Buddhism. I’m a big fan of The Art of Happiness, because it combines a mildly scientific approach with the badass calmness of the Dalai Lama. The link above is to a batch of used copies on Amazon, but you can also get Kindle versions and of course your first choice should be checking if there is a copy at your local Public Library.

Advanced Bonus from a Librarian reader: A service called “Worldcat” lets you search a huge collection of libraries (and find the closest one) for specific books. Let’s try it out for Art of Happiness:

https://www.worldcat.org/title/art-of-happiness-a-handbook-for-living/oclc/39223562&referer=brief_results

  • Edward June 8, 2016, 2:15 pm

    My dad had a temper. When I felt myself shifting that way at 20, I knew it had to be stopped and I began reading about Taoism. A decade later something weird shifted. All feelings of expectation and disappointment went away and never came back. I still feel joy and sadness (and on rare occasions frustration) but I don’t ever want or expect anything . It’s nice. And liberating. And 15 years later, still weird. Things will happen like, “That’s the nicest guitar I’ve ever seen–beautiful!” A friend will say, “Why don’t you buy it? You can afford it.” Me: “No, I don’t *want* it, I just admire and like it very much.” Friend: “You’re insane, know that?” I have preferences, but almost never wants. I’d like to have a beer. I’d prefer to be somewhere else. I have created a goal. “Wants ” though? Phsaw!! I remember them and they sucked.

    Reply
    • Mira June 8, 2016, 2:53 pm

      this is how I think that eastern and modern/western ideas can co-exist in the same life…you can appreciate everything and anything so thoroughly that you don’t need to own it

      Reply
    • Yarrow June 11, 2016, 10:06 am

      I very rarely want anything either, it is so freeing! Recently I was in a pay (cash) parking lot and realized I needed money to get out. I couldn’t remember what I had. I found that I still had 50 cents from the last week
      and so could leave. Not buying things is just a habit that we can choose to leave behind. I often go for many weeks without spending money except for groceries.
      On a totally different front, I notice that MMM seems to confuse fitness with health. I am someone who had always been fit and healthy and loved using my body, until at 42 I got a major disabling illness. It isn’t life threatening though. I am in pain every day, the only change is how much. Exercise causes flare ups and they
      don’t have treatments for it. This has been true for 26 years. I choose not to give it power and I am happy and
      contented in my life. Except for those closest to me, others do not know, as I don’t want to focus or give power
      to something I cannot control. But I can and do live happily every day while being mindful of all that I do have.

      Reply
      • Aimee July 14, 2016, 9:33 am

        Fitness and health go hand in hand for most people. You are out of the norm as you have an illness. MMM points out that he talks about the masses and you need to tweak his ideas for yourself.

        I wish you well.

        Reply
  • prefixcactus June 8, 2016, 2:32 pm

    To expand once again on the subject of buddhism and its equation-form:
    I feel that this is kind of the whole point of frugality and Mustachianism in general: Instead of working more to get whatever it is you crave, you just train yourself to *not* crave it and be happy with what you have instead.

    Stoicism, curiously, can also be formulated in these terms: By visualizing alternative, worse scenarios, you adapt your expectations, and your normal life starts to exceed them. Ergo, you feel happy.

    Reply
  • Greg June 8, 2016, 2:40 pm

    I would quibble with Maslo’s hierarchy a little bit. (I realize it has been tweaked significantly since Maslo developed it.)
    Because humans are tribal/social (like lions, wolves, hyenas, …), I think that we cannot take step 1 until we are secure in our social attachments. Figuring out how to get food and shelter, and then getting them, is absolutely a working-together thing for us, so our most basic physical needs require social connectedness, community membership.

    The romantic idea of the lone survivalist, even the religious hermit, is, I believe, a relatively recent invention, going back not much more than 200 years (for survivalism/lonerism) and maybe a couple or few millenia for religious hermitism. People depend on each other, contrary to our indoctrination in extreme individualism which we get in our western industrial societies (and which beliefs help us feel miserable).

    Reply
  • Rudy June 8, 2016, 2:50 pm

    Suffering = Expectations – Reality

    It could also be said that:

    Happiness = Reality – Expectations

    So I guess the takeaway is:

    Keep your expectations low and you’ll be happy! ;-) Cheers!

    Reply
  • Mira June 8, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Just when I think the blog has reached peak mustache, you’ve gone and nailed another series of amazing points!

    A lot of the points you make related to happiness and the human condition/existence come back to our organization as social animals _precisely_ because of the reproductive imperative instilled in us as animals who have fragile newborn offspring, but the hard (and amazing/comical/joyful) thing is to remember this during the day to day ridiculous situations where you might be oh, I don’t know, trying to make it to a webmeeting on time, or pondering the right way to insert an ink cartridge….we’re just scrabbling around on Earth trying to live and reproduce and this is what we’re doing….crazy.

    Anyway I agree with a lot of the commenters that this approach seems to overlap with a lot of Eastern ontologies, and wonder why it is that so many thinkers with wisdom and distance converge on these truths. Weird, wonderful. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Mary June 8, 2016, 3:01 pm

    While maybe not “cool” at the present, this is pretty much how Christianity works. The Bible tells us not to worry, to be content with what we have, to be thankful, that “things” will never make us happy, that hard work, physically and mentally is a good idea, etc. Your premise that the only logical pursuit is happiness is also the subject of a book called “Desiring God” in which the author posits the same philosophy.

    Reply
    • Bill June 8, 2016, 3:20 pm

      Judaism too, I suppose, given what’s written in Ecclesiastes. Here’s the richest king who ever lived, telling us that money doesn’t buy happiness. Quite some time ago.

      Reply
    • Doug July 9, 2016, 1:34 pm

      You’re probably right, but most people (myself included) aren’t listening because we’re so turned off by what Christianity has become. In recent times Christianity has adopted this extreme right wing, anti environmental, everyone for themselves and everyone else is wrong stance. It’s quite a departure from the more altruistic, love thy neighbour and help thy brother or sister in need ideas of Christianity past. That’s why many people, and and I see some here on this site, are looking to other more peaceful religions like Buddhism to help them on their way to progressing to higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

      Reply
  • Syed June 8, 2016, 3:09 pm

    This reminds me of a saying from a local religious scholar who I respect very much. He said that we humans need to stop craning our necks and looking up at those who seem to have more than we do. You know who I’m talking about. The guy with the new Benz. Your friends who seem to go on international vacations every 2 months. That lady with the latest iPhone.

    The guy with the new Benz could have just wasted his life savings. The family going on vacations could just be biding time until they get broken up from a divorce. The lady with the iPhone used her welfare check to buy it. Not everything is black and white, and we should not waste our precious time on this planet worrying about that type of stuff.

    Instead, look at those who are not as well off as you are, which is a large part of the world population if you live in America. This will give you perspective on your own life situation and maybe want to help those people out in the process.

    Happiness is only found in contentment.

    Reply
  • Michal June 8, 2016, 4:08 pm

    From scientific point of view Maslow hierarchy is flawed. Biological goal of life is not self actualization but promotion of genes to the next generation. Everybody knows happy people who have sacrified basic needs for greater good (straving artists, soldiers, mothers…). Maslow studied very narrow group of very successfull people – not a general population.
    I prefer the more logical chierarchy proposed in a book titled Rational Animal. From the top to the bottom: in order to promote genes you have to take care of children (7) so you have to keep your partner (6) but first attract him/her (5) so you need social status (4) so you must belong to a group / society (3), so you have to be healthy and do not spread viruses (2) and know how to protect yourself (1) So security, health, friendship, status, mate attraction, mate retention and parenthood are our biological goals. Self actualization looks like just one way of status aqusition (think Justin Biber or MMM blog ;). Epicour recommended to fulfill just first two steps until “no suck mark” and stop at level 3. Moved out of society and was celibate. Stoics focused on level 3 also (social duty) but the goal was high status (4) of a virtous sage. Aristoteles proposed seeking these goals but in moderation. Buddism and taoism are just a kind of rebel/hacking of this whole biological “operating system”.

    Reply
    • Mira June 8, 2016, 10:22 pm

      I like it.

      Reply
    • Posted On June 9, 2016, 5:02 am

      “but first attract him/her (5) so you need social status (4)”

      really?

      Reply
    • Janson June 10, 2016, 11:50 am

      Let’s keeping hacking the operating system! It’s impressive how many different hacking strategies are out there and how much of their code is oriented toward self-selling. Surprisingly, Mustachianism has been a really effective hacking algorithm for me so far. And thanks, I just bought the book you recommended.

      Reply
  • Adventures with Poopsie June 8, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Oh dear. Just a few days ago, I had the exact thought about buying a leaf blower… I need to just sweep them. Thanks MMM as always!

    Reply
    • KariVery June 13, 2016, 10:08 am

      Also, your non-yard-machine-weilding neighbors like myself will appreciate less noise pollution, and you will get to enjoy using your body and being outside – win win!!

      Reply
  • Butch June 8, 2016, 4:20 pm

    Best. Money. Mustache. Blog. Ever.

    Reply
  • Norm June 8, 2016, 4:26 pm

    What a great article. I love this pyramid idea. I think I’m already employing some of the lessons therein. Like analyzing all purchases and technologies to see if they are actually fixing a problem, which is like an Amish trait. I’ve also been getting very Stoic/Buddhist. I hardly ever experience envy or jealousy anymore, and have gotten really into the idea of replacing revenge with forgiveness, which is another thing the Amish have down. But despite removing these counterproductive feelings, I have to admit though, biking home today in the windy weather still made me uncomfortable!

    Reply
    • Troy Rank June 8, 2016, 7:45 pm

      I remember reading about how Kevin Kelly, Founder of Wired magazine, studied and lived with the Amish. I couldn’t understand it at first. But then he explained that what the Amish do, is only allow the most basic technology into their lives that, according to them, makes their life better. That’s that Kevin claimed to be doing as well with Wired, helping people select the important technology. It’s the opposite of the self-reaffirming consumerism.

      Oh, btw, a wind breaker rain jacket is my go-to on the bike all the time. It’s good from like 25 degrees up to almost 90 if it’s raining. Plus on windy days it’s really nice.

      Reply
      • Troy Rank June 8, 2016, 7:51 pm

        P.S. I’d love an e-mail subscription option on your site. Yeah I can jigger my own, but still.

        Thanks!

        Reply
  • Michelle June 8, 2016, 4:31 pm

    “Leave your front door and your back door open.
    Allow your thoughts to come and go.
    Just don’t serve them tea.”
    Shunryu Suzuki

    Reply
  • dathan June 8, 2016, 4:35 pm

    I think you have mentioned Tim Ferriss before but I am an avid reader/listener and he has been on the Stoicism band wagon for a while now. I have to admit I really enjoy reading various stoic quotes each day to try to keep myself grounded and appreciative of what I (most of us) have in our daily lives.

    One of the best things I’ve ever done was a 7 day water fast. I truly felt a transformation, and I always recommend it to people. Maybe 7 days is a bit much for the first time, but I think it needs to be enough to where you struggle, but then once you pass the struggle the reward is so worth it. I have never gone to church in my life but I was inspired to read the bible during my fast, and I must admit it was very enlightening.

    Reply
    • Troy Rank June 8, 2016, 7:40 pm

      Me too, Ketosis has some amazing effects.

      Reply
  • michelle June 8, 2016, 5:17 pm

    I have always liked Maslows hierarchy of needs and find that it is valid.
    While undoubtedly you will receive much information about the merits of various thought systems, aka religion, some accessible Buddhist authors you may be interested in, no particular order
    Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
    Pema Chodron
    Jack Kornfield
    Susan Salzberg
    Sogyal Rinpoche
    if you would like specifics feel free to email

    Cheers,

    Reply
  • elegant gypsy June 8, 2016, 5:41 pm

    I love you Mr. Moneymustache. Is there any chance we can clone you? Actually I can’t wait that long! Older brother? O.K. what’s the deets on your father? lol… Great article. You are my soulmate and you don’t even know it. Barbara Kingsolver is my other soulmate. I love her too! You guys both speak my language in so many ways. And…I too… drive a Scion Xa! Imagine that!

    Great article. Appreciated every word.

    Keep those cards and letters coming :)

    Reply
  • Ex-Sgt Pepper June 8, 2016, 6:23 pm

    I retired at 53, 5 years ago. We spent a couple enjoyable years traveling around, and now have settled down in southern Oregon. I have become an addict… to LEARNING HOW TO DO NEW THINGS!! Success doing something new makes me want to do it again, and again. Last week, I built an interior wall, to give my pops a bit more privacy, and even framed out a door. Made a few mistakes but I learned a lot, it came out really nice, and it made me HAPPY. It cost about $140. Three weeks ago, while shopping at Habitat for Humanity’s “ReStore” for good used stuff, I picked up a bike that was rusting away out back for $25. Broke it down completely to its Nishiki chromoly frame, and then bought some new parts and put together a really nice hybrid bike for a total of $125. I really felt a great sense of accomplishment, and I have a cool “new” comfortable bike to make me healthier! The fun part is working hard, when you want to, and then taking a break when you want to, and going to the library and picking up some great books and learning even more in comfort. I’m just so much happier after getting out of the consumerist mentality.

    Reply
    • Troy Rank June 8, 2016, 7:38 pm

      This is awesome.

      Reply
    • TinaP June 9, 2016, 10:18 am

      This is awesome – I started a similar personal philosophy of “try it myself first”. I realize I can do way more than I give myself credit for.!

      Reply
  • Alan June 8, 2016, 7:05 pm

    I found my way to Stoicism by way of MMM. I’m grateful for that. In fact, I was reading Epictetus Enchiridion when suddenly this gem of an article came thru. Thanks Bro.

    Reply
  • Troy Rank June 8, 2016, 7:37 pm

    Wow, this may be the best post yet. This is it. It’s what it’s all about.

    Making versus buying is always been something that’s important. Even if what you’re making is an adventure or a memory, the things only there to able what you can ultimately create as a human.

    Stoicism and Mindfulness (sure Buddhism) have been on the top of my mind lately as well. If you have a computer and can read this blog, you have so many reasons to be happy, and it’s so important to embrace this and squash the automatic negative thoughts.

    Reply
  • Nicola June 8, 2016, 10:14 pm

    My first love is to work with people at the end of life. I also teach hospice volunteers. I would highly recommend that anyone who has the chance to, spends time with people who know they are approaching the end of their lives. It seems that there is nothing like facing the end to strip away all that is not important and to distill the essence of what truly matters. Reminding yourself that you too will die is quite the useful thing too. I can guarantee that it will change how you live each day. It’s like a rallying cry to Mustachianism!
    As you continue to explore buddhism I would suggest the book “Being with Dying” by Joan Halifax. I am currently greatly enjoying it. Strong back, soft front :-) .

    Reply
  • Ricky June 8, 2016, 10:36 pm

    I think it’s impossible to be “retired” and be happy. When I say retired, I mean you do stop producing entirely and become strictly a consumer. Stoicism is a good start: appreciating what you have but then realizing that if you were to shake things up and become uncomfortable again then you could build on your happiness. Unfortunately, happiness isn’t binary, nor is it sustainable. It requires constant attention, tweaking, and effort. That’s where Buddhism comes in of course. I’m confident a true Buddhist can be happy in ANY situation if they’re dedicated enough. It’s just that sometimes reality catches back up to you occasionally.

    On the subject of happiness, I’d be interested in a full post comparing happiness between completely retired folk and those who still enjoy their work/jobs. This is a topic of interest as of late for some researches and it hasn’t been properly fleshed out from what I’ve gathered.

    Reply
  • danudamu June 8, 2016, 10:44 pm

    Dear MM, you have touched a major question of current western society. I completely agree with your reflection on happiness. I just wanted to add one more point. Materialism does make happy, but it is very short lived. Non-materialistic happiness (creation, hobby, friendship, physical exercise, volunteer work, meditation, etc..) last longer. Sadly, no one teaches these things in a study even though it is the most important aspect of life.

    Reply
  • Suvi June 9, 2016, 1:39 am

    Very well put, everything in this post. We’ve had quite annoying times in my family recently, including losing almost all our stuff to toxic mold, moving out of our home with our little children (of course paying for two appartments then) and dealing with health issues. Thankfully it is now all starting to pass, but what I have come to think of it is pretty much everything mr MM just wrote. When times were the toughest, I was often asked if I needed professional help, a psychologist or so. But the only thing that really helped was enough sleep and exercise, if I felt strong physically I was mentally stronger too. I now sincerely believe that the body really is the base and the foundation of our happiness. The other thing I noticed was how irrelevant that “stuff” we had to get rid off really was and how useful it is to have some money in the bank instead, at least some freedom and security. And lastly, what happened to us felt unfair. But life is unfair in it’s core. I can’t even imagine the horrors some people have to overcome, to absolutely no fault of their own. I think the reason that “how could you make this worse” therapy helps is that it makes you see that everything really could be worse, so appreciate what you have now.

    Reply
    • Vicki from NZ June 9, 2016, 5:41 pm

      I don’t think life is unfair as life not capable of such actions. Here on earth we are part of a massive universe of events that occur daily, if you learn about positive thinking and the law of attraction you will see that life is a series of ‘events’ whether human made or not. How we react to those events, like you say is everything. If you think positive or just ‘be’ rather than thinking all of the time then I find life events are far easier to deal with. I think when we have a series of challenges in life it is easy to feel alone but when you talk with others most go through similar experiences. Personally I have found positive thinking as a hugely powerful tool in my belt when dealing with stresses of life.

      Reply
  • Vilx- June 9, 2016, 1:53 am

    Here’s one thing that has always bothered me about the “happiness as the main goal” idea: if that is so, then isn’t the logical conclusion for an ideal life thus:

    1. Do all the things that MMM advises, be super frugal and in a decade or so get plenty of passive income flowing in;
    2. Move to a country where drugs are legal;
    3. Get the cheapest apartment you can find;
    4. Hire a maid to come and clean/bring food/bring drugs twice a week;
    5. Permanent drug-slumber (aka happyland) until you die.

    Looking at it from the outside it sounds horrible, but for the person _doing_ this it would be the best thing possible. Permanent happiness.

    Or, well, OK, maybe there’s something I don’t understand about how drugs work (I’ve never used them myself nor do I want to). Still, the basic idea remains – we just need to study the human body a bit more and find a way to stimulate all the right brain pathways in all the right ways. If happiness really is the key goal of life, then devoting resources in this direction is worthwhile. But the end result would still be the same – decades of slumber in Nirvana. The ultimate goal of humanity – cut off everyone’s heads (discard the bodies, they’re unnecessary) and put them in special storage tanks that both ensure life support and stimulate happiness. Since the storage tanks are sterile and all, we’d basically become immortal and stoned forever (or at least for the next few billion years or so). There’s a few more details that need to be ironed out (automatic maintenance and stuff), but that’s doable too.

    By the way, this is also known as “wireheading”. Is THIS really how it should be? I find it unbelievable, but it does fit the goal of “maximizing happiness”…

    Reply
  • HenryDavid June 9, 2016, 2:27 am

    “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you” –Nathaniel Hawthorne

    The so-American ideal of pursuing happiness has always made me uneasy. How do I know what will make me “happy?” until I’ve tried it? Am I born knowing what’s good for me? No. So I have to keep trying things. Buying things. Achieving things. But “nothing could be harder than the quest for fun” (Brecht). I’ve liked Hawthorne’s quotation since I was young because it unhooks the “pursuit” part form the “happiness” part.

    So where the Maslow pyramid and the Buddhist stuff intersect might work like this: take care of the basic stuff. Your body needs to be maintained. And you need some human connection. Once you have the basic levels sorted out–and that’s not so hard as you think! (an important message of this blog)–then, right away, it’s time to Calm. The Fuck. Down. Stop the mad pursuit. Sit quietly in a calm state of mind. Or perhaps, work quietly at something helpful/useful/necessary. In a Calm State of Mind. Not pursuing, Not getting too attached to the outcome, to your accomplishments, to rewards and honours. Happiness might come to you.

    Worst case scenario, you took care of the fundamental stuff and did some useful work, and didn’t make the world worse.

    Reply
  • Claire June 9, 2016, 3:11 am

    Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Haruki Murakami.

    Reply
  • mikael June 9, 2016, 3:23 am

    You forgot to mention Aristoles ideas about happiness (1) Here is an excellent video with Professor Mortimer J. Adler, where he briefly go through Aristoles ideas about how to live a good life and achieve happiness, see https://www.youtube.com/watch ? v = 6NxLHE_fy3A

    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_ethics

    Reply
  • Pamela June 9, 2016, 6:37 am

    I heard an interesting explanation about happiness recently.
    It said that everyone has three choices when it comes to happiness. They can either be:
    -happy for a moment
    -happy for the day
    -happy for a lifetime

    To explain further if a person is craving a cigarette he can either be happy for a moment (and have a smoke) or he can be happy for a lifetime (and give up smoking and have a healthier life.)
    Of if a person decides not to go to work he will be happy for the day but not happy for a lifetime (because after one too many days off, they will can his ass.)

    Of course Mustachians have figured out the best way to be happy for a lifetime. Work just long enough so that you can take every damn day off.

    Reply
  • Free Range Nation June 9, 2016, 7:15 am

    I use this in my workshops. Instead of asking if buying something will reduce life suck, I have people ask themselves with every purchase, how much time freedom they are giving up for this item versus the value it provides. For example, I will spend more to buy fresh, local, organic vegetables over processed, packaged food, but I find the health value is worth it and the energy and vitality will make me more productive in the long run. I sold my car, because driving it was reducing my health, happiness and mobility, so it isn’t worth trading my freedom.

    I also think people get stuck in certain rungs of this ladder. For example, they think more stuff means more security. They think adhering to societal expectations will bring them love and belonging. They tie up their esteem with fancy cars and high end label clothes to let the world know that they have ‘made it.’ Like you said, usually these things don’t bring us happiness, and can actually make us less happy. I think self actualization comes from the lack of worry and lack of conformity. Expressing creativity and individuality. In my mind, the ultimate freedom.

    Reply
  • Sarah June 9, 2016, 7:49 am

    I’ve been recently learning about the intentional accessing of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins for the design of software systems that will be ‘more satisfying’, which turned into a fascinating reveal of a relative’s previous life in addiction counseling. Apparently, when one has an imbalance of these brain chemicals, certain predictable dysfunctional balances result (which we laypeople call ‘addiction’), in predictable orders, which can be carefully and knowingly reversed.

    For my rather ordinary life, though, it’s enough to know that just like my food diet, my brain functions best when it’s given the opportunity to create its optimal balance of serotonin (from planning/anticipation), dopamine (achieving action), oxytocin (bravo’s from others), and endorphins (physical exhaustion/release). Since hearing about the theory of balanced vs. unbalanced states, I’ve been watching myself carefully, and trying to observe…’I think I’m planning-heavy right now, let’s see if I can knock a few things off a list, or check in with friends, or take a walk.’

    Interestingly, just at the moment I’m wiped from teaching kiddies to sing and dance at Vacation Bible School every night this week…so I’m definitely zooming on endorphins, rare in a software engineer’s daily routine, but feeling kind of end-heavy. For balance, cruising the houseboat sale listings…(planning)…seems to be working. It’s a very interesting model to carry around, and I’m glad you’re mentioning it.

    Reply
  • joy June 9, 2016, 7:51 am

    I recently completed listening Beyond religion by Dalai Lama. It is a great book to read to if you have a conflict with your religion.

    Reply
  • Cynthia June 9, 2016, 7:57 am

    Have you read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg? According to what I gleaned from that book, much of what we do is habitual. He refers to this as the habit loop, consisting of a cue and then a reward. Advertisers have been exploiting the habit loop for a long time to garner our consumption. The way to take that back is through awareness and consciously inserting a new action between the cue and the reward.

    I think that is why bloggers like you are providing such a wonderful service. You not only provide powerful inspiration for doing things differently but also the opportunity for reflection and to ask ourselves, “What is it we REALLY want?” A lot of times what might make us feel really great in the moment won’t bring long term happiness but we are so caught up in habitual patterns, it can be difficult to realize, especially given how quickly retailers and corporations are working to make sure our urges and impulses are satisfied almost instantly these days.

    Reply
  • cksurfdude June 9, 2016, 8:53 am

    Someone asked The Buddha:
    “What have you gained from all that meditation?”

    “Nothing” was the reply.

    However, a moment later this was followed by…
    “Let me tell you what I have lost –
    Anger, anxiety, depression and insecurity.”

    ⚡️

    Reply
  • Beth June 9, 2016, 9:15 am

    I think my happiness is much higher in the summer than in the winter because I am able to garden. Nurturing and producing my own crops and then partaking of them brings me immense joy.

    I have reduced my own consumption as well as my families, though my husband still falls prey every now and then. We enjoy experiences more than stuff nowadays and this has helped us move up the heir achy.

    Thanks MMM, love your posts!

    Reply
  • Visionary Money June 9, 2016, 9:30 am

    I’m amazed how many times we use the same words but have different definitions of those words and their meaning. I remember talking to a neighbor who said they were miserable and had no joy. Their definition of joy was fun/entertainment. I said what if your definition of joy was actually … progress in life. Progress usually equals a little pain and growth here and there, but leads to more abilities and likely greater outcomes than passive living. All life has purpose but without a destination or goal we just continue to paddle with one oar being frustrated because “what is it all about and why does it matter?”

    Reply
  • Kevin June 9, 2016, 9:38 am

    If I didn’t have leaves to rake, leaf-raking would not be the physical activity I would choose to increase my happiness. So if buying a leaf-blower saves me hours of raking leaves, and I spend those saved hours riding around on my bike, didn’t buying the leaf-blower help increase my happiness?

    If you actually enjoy fitness, then convenience is not the enemy of fitness. Convenience allows for you to engage in more preferred methods of fitness.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 9, 2016, 11:00 am

      Well, to be fair the leaf raking works completely different muscle groups than cycling, so you should do both :-)

      Leaf-blowers aren’t really any faster than rakes, which is reason #2.

      The third reason is that leafblowers annoy the fuck out of everyone else, so they should only be used if you don’t have any neighbors within about 400 yards. And be sure you get an electric one, not gas.

      Reply
      • dunny June 19, 2016, 12:08 pm

        Just what I was thinking. Reasons #4, 5, and 6 it makes the job really unpleasant, costs more, and you have to have a garage or shed to store it. Leaf raking as you said is a great whole body workout with lots of torso- twisting, arm/shoulder motion, squatting, crawling around under shrubs, and weight-lifting carrying all the raked up leaves to the leaf bin. As you said, the blower takes longer plus you still have to gather up the leaves and truck them to the bin. Instead of lovely hour(s) of raking outside with all the spicy earthy smells and sounds of nature, you have to listen to a very loud (and smelly if you use gas) machine. I do all my work around the house and garden without the use of machines and love it. I used to hate it all but came to my senses and, call it zen or stoicism, I now really enjoy doing the routine work in the house and yard.

        Reply
      • ickabug June 21, 2016, 12:51 pm

        I think there are a few assumptions made here that I should address. I have an enormous big leaf maple that try to kill me every fall. I have drainage ways that are filled with river rock. I have tons of shrubs and so forth. A rake cannot collect leaves from these areas. It’s not like I’m just blowing leaves across a nice level lawn. I’ve tried a rake and it is impossible to rake leaves out of river rock and a leaf blower is really the only solution I have found that works. I blow the leaves into piles and then collect them and carry them to the recycling bin. The act of blowing the leaves actually dries them a bit, so I can carry more leaves at a time, which makes things more efficient. I do this once a week for 4 to 5 weeks in the fall. Believe me, I’m getting quite the workout even using the leaf blower.

        I’m also getting to an age that I’m not quite as strong as I used to be. So my options are to hire a couple local kids to rake my leaves. (Won’t happen. Apparently kids don’t work raking leaves any more.) Hire a landscaping crew to come and use leaf blowers to rake my leaves. (Ummm… dumb.) Or use a loud stinky leaf blower and get the job done myself. (Hate it, but I’m not cutting down my big leaf maple.)

        Yes, leaf blowers annoy the fuck out of everyone including myself. I do my leaf blowing when most of the neighbors are off at work, so I try to be considerate in that regard. Also, I know that a lot of this blog is directed toward younger people, so muscle power is highly valued. I’m quite fit for my age but I’ve never been all that strong and as I age, I’ve found things that are simple for a 30 year old are less simple for someone twice that age. I think that needs to be recognized.

        Reply
  • TinaP June 9, 2016, 10:11 am

    As a musician’s wife, I have the obligation to disagree with your example for producing stuff costs less than consuming stuff…..as I count the number of guitars my husband owns and think of the additional ones he doesn’t own yet, but lets me know he “needs”. :) OK, joking aside – I love the moments he turns off the TV and pulls a guitar out or sits at the piano and noodles around. And since the band rehearses at our house, I typically get weekly all access VIP passes to a great concert!

    If you haven’t read it yet, you might add “The Accidental Buddhist” to your reading list; I love how it takes the “real” practice of Buddhism and applies it to “normal” daily lives – the monks we so often compare ourselves to when trying to learn to meditate or become more peaceful have devoted years and often their entire lives to the practice – we can’t expect to go from crazy American to enlightened Buddhist overnight and give up when it doesn’t happen!

    Reply
  • The Vigilante June 9, 2016, 10:16 am

    As much as I enjoy the visual of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with a truck plowing through it, I could use a little elaboration on the physics involved.

    What is the pyramid made of that it shows no signs of cracking or other damage except a clean break between two levels? Does each level have perforated edges? And what is the truck made of, that it doesn’t have a single scratch? And since the truck tires aren’t spinning, it appears that the truck is not driving but rather falling through the pyramid, which makes its current position in relation to the top portion of the pyramid all that much more intriguing. Is the pyramid top coming back down on top of a falling truck, at a faster rate than the truck is falling? How? And I suppose depending on how it was dropped and based on the aerodynamics involved the front may fall faster than the bed (I haven’t run the calculations), but it is a very interesting position for a drop if the truck started level.

    And why does the driver appear so calm? Is he THAT self-actualized?

    Reply
  • TheHappyPhilosopher June 9, 2016, 10:18 am

    This is an excellent post MMM.

    I have dug into Stoicism and Buddhism recently and have found them to have significant overlap. They really compliment each other. The way I like to frame it in my mind is to think in terms of acceptance. By accepting everything that happens and not trying to resist the thoughts and emotions that arise, we can move past them. It seems silly, but it is so much easier to deal with hardship in life when viewed through this lens.

    In a way I feel like Buddhist principals are the ultimate life-hack. I have found that by shifting my mindset I can become ‘happier’, whatever that means, without actually changing my external situation. It’s like some kind of voodoo magic. The other thing I love about it is that is stacks very nicely upon existing beliefs. It doesn’t really matter if you are Christian, atheist, etc. these principals are compatible.

    One book I really loved and helped me frame Buddhism in a way that made sense to me is Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

    Namaste :)

    Reply
  • mike June 9, 2016, 11:22 am

    Hi MMM,

    To me this blog has taken off a load of pressure from myself, as it helped me realize that life is simple again. I literally instantly graduated to a new level. Get rich enough to live off your money indefinitely is the proposed path. Getting there means a string of choices that will either get you there fast or with a slight detour. Optimal choices or not, the outcome is there at the end. my brain likes that certainty, no more worries. I believe in it and it’s going well so far as I play inside my new framework. In the meantime my brain is more interested in a new puzzle, thinking about and trying out possibilities for life after retirement.

    I suppose, doing good and feeling good about what you do is indeed the key. Though trying to be good can be tiresome as well. The trick is to try new things and evaluate, who knows some good may come of it. Sometimes a button seems to do the trick, but upon close inspection it’s just an obsession with something that will never pay off. It’s also accepting that a button doesn’t do it for you anymore and moving on. There is no shame in leaving beautiful things behind for others to continue with, if anything it’s a good way to see if your idea will live on or disappear without you and does it really matter?

    Because of this I suspect I will eventually move up and down the top levels on Maslow’s pyramid; one moment happily pressing the buttons and the other looking for new buttons to press. I could happily do that forever, and much good could come of that.

    Reply
  • 2300 June 9, 2016, 11:46 am

    Great post and timely too!

    I’ve been obsessively researching happiness and some Buddhism along the way. Thanks to everyone for recommended resources that have increased my library list!

    Here’s a few other items that some may find helpful:
    The Surprising Science of Happiness | Dan Gilbert | TED Talks
    https://youtu.be/4q1dgn_C0AU?list=PLpZC1Ppt02iHg5JYNv9ieO0j2pMN4gGMo
    Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness
    https://youtu.be/vbLEf4HR74E?list=PLpZC1Ppt02iHg5JYNv9ieO0j2pMN4gGMo
    Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn
    https://youtu.be/3nwwKbM_vJc?list=PLpZC1Ppt02iHg5JYNv9ieO0j2pMN4gGMo
    Happy (the movie):
    http://www.thehappymovie.com

    “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
    ― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

    Reply
  • Stephen June 9, 2016, 12:06 pm

    I am really hoping you can address the elephant in the room that I am sure we all have been wondering for the past couple of months: why did you buy a brand new non-stick skillet instead of a wonderful used cast iron skillet?

    I’m half-joking of course. My take on consumerism is that (almost) everything you might need for your self and home peaked decades ago. Need to repair something? Hand tools from the mid 19th century are just as good or better than what you can get now. Need to shave? Shaving enthusiasts tend to agree that the best way to shave (cheapest and closest shave) is with a double edged safety razor, invented in 1901. Cooks seem to like aluminum (even heating) or cast iron (non-stick, high heat, heat retention), and both have been around for a long time. The list goes on..

    All that to say, everyone has different passions, and satisfying those passions is, in my opinion, one of the keys to happiness. One of yours is reducing wastefulness by cutting down on gasoline/electric/etc usage. One of mine is to surround myself with simple, durable tools and appliances (used or new) that should last longer than me with proper care. I spend a non-trivial amount of time researching new purchases. E.g., I needed some wire strippers recently, and I feel satisfied having researched a pair that should last me a very long time rather than wandering into a big box store and guessing at which ones are good.

    Some people are passionate about fitness, programming, or woodworking, and I bet some people are even passionate about more specific things like collecting horror movies or big Ford trucks. I’d say let them– it probably does actually make them happier.

    Reply
  • Andrew June 9, 2016, 12:13 pm

    Christianity has traditionally also had a focus on reducing or removing our attachment to material possessions, and that sufferings of this life will be replaced with joy in eternity.

    Reply
  • Arthur June 9, 2016, 1:31 pm

    This is true.

    Happiness should be our main pursuit (along with being a great person) because life can be short and is often unpredictable. Too bad they don’t teach us simple things like this in high school. I understand we need some consumerism to keep the economy churning but it would be nice to at least be aware of the alternative.

    I’m grateful that I now know, but what about the future generations who think they need the newest Iphone to be happy…

    Reply
  • C June 9, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Nice piece.

    I’m struggling with the car thing, because like most people I like stuff and like the best though I never get it.

    That said, I got a Leaf a few years ago because I did in fact “need” a car, and I hate burning gas. It’s a great car and I don’t regret the 18,000 gas-free, solar-powered miles.

    You can now get a Leaf for less than $8,000. So if you need to drive (locally) don’t want to burn gas, and want to save (about 70% cheaper to operate), this is a great option and well worth it.

    EVs are depreciating super fast because gas prices are so low.

    Reply
  • Financial Slacker June 9, 2016, 2:36 pm

    As I have gotten older, I have started trying to become more thoughtful in my decision-making. Rather than just blindly doing things, I ask myself, why am I eating this? Why am I doing this? Why do I want this? If I can’t come up with a good answer, I stop whatever it is.

    Although I am far from perfect in this, maybe I’m at least making some degree of progress toward better life.

    Reply
  • Mr Nomadic Nutter June 9, 2016, 5:10 pm

    I must say MMM this article really strikes a cord with me this time around.

    Since stumbling across your blog about 2 years ago, myself and the missus have managed to trim our lifestyles so that we now save roughly 50% of our income. You will be happy to hear that we were behaving ourselves very nicely, cycling to work, cutting back on the excessive consumerism and the fine dining and were even paying off our mortgage with the max extra top up allowed per year and investing/saving the rest. Text book advice for yours truly!

    However at the end of last year we had a little “fuck it” moment and hatched another more “living in the moment” plan. Next week will be my last week working ……. this year :) We are taking a mini retirement for 6 months and going to go traveling with our 2 kids (2.5 months and 2.5 years) and Dude our 8 year old Basset Hound around Europe in an old caravan we bought cheap and did up ourselves. Check of the before, during and after pics at http://www.nomadicnutters.com/2016/05/23/paint-my-wagon/ if you fancy a gander.

    I know we are sacrificing our future selfs with this adventure but damn it somethings are just meant to be, and it’s better to live mostly in the present with your feet on the ground, than constantly in the future only in your head.

    Travelling is in our blood, it really gels us together as a couple and a family unit. In a word it makes us HAPPY.
    And sure we can always pick up where we left off next year, re-growing our stash. I do console myself in the fact that we are filing our lives with experiences instead of stuff at any rate.

    I’d be interested to hear what the other Mustachians feel about us blowing the stash so early along the path to full FI?

    Cheers
    Tom

    Reply
    • HenryDavid June 10, 2016, 1:26 am

      Such a good idea. I think that balancing the present and the future a little can be a very good thing. If you have a good foundation, and you’re not for-certain blowing up your whole financial situation (i.e. digging a deep hole of debt) why not profit a bit from youth and life flexibility? Some of my own best experiences, and those of friends who tried this, came from doing just this. People wait too long, more often than not. Life is not a conveyor belt with a fixed pace and destination. Have a great 6 months.

      Reply
      • Mr Nomadic Nutter June 10, 2016, 9:04 am

        Thanks Henry David!

        Indeed we will not be going into debt to finance any of the next 6 months, just eating into our own wee stash a little, maybe a lot :)

        We have only been really saving (30-50%) in the last 2 years but a lot of the building blocks of the so called MMM lifestyle we already had. We just had to ramp them up a notch or two or ten :)

        Time wise it’s pretty perfect, the eldest son is not yet old enough for school and the youngest is not yet old enough to do much except sleep, eat, poop and cry on occasion. And thanks to our “extreme” savings we have enough cash on hand to live 6 months off the grid.

        Somehow I don’t think when the time comes and I’m lying on my death bed that I’ll be regretting this trip :P

        Reply
        • Aimee July 14, 2016, 11:19 am

          You are doing it consciously and that’s great. Try to not live it up too much while you are traveling and keep living as inexpensively as possible. Your stash will go much further and who knows, you may have some leftover in the end to leave for your future selves!

          Happy trekking!

          Reply
    • David June 14, 2016, 12:42 pm

      I don’t see anything wrong with this. Mustachianism isn’t just about saving money now so you can start living later. You have embedded some great habits into your lifestyle…you won’t have any issues “catching back up” when you return from your adventures. Jim Collins (www.jlcollinsnh.com in case you live under a rock) has done this many times in an on-again, off-again working career and seems quite happy.

      Reply
  • Linda June 9, 2016, 9:00 pm

    For the first time in my 35 years, I feel like I’m at the top of the pyramid. I’m comfortable and happy enough with where my life is and where I’m going in that life, that I can start focusing on the self-actualization part of it. I don’t think I would have gotten here without MMM and the FIRE community.

    Thanks for the book recommendation! I’ll be making a trip to the library soon.

    Reply
  • ZJ Thorne June 9, 2016, 10:14 pm

    I have been on the pursuit of wholeness for the duration of my adult life. Not happiness. Wholeness. I think pursuing this has directly lead to more happiness, but it is not the true goal. My goal is to feel more complete in myself and to be best versions of myself that continue to change as new data is added.

    This switch in focus has helped me a tremendous deal. When I was a child and food insecure (etc), I thought I wanted to be a happy adult. Once I became an adult and had access to food and other versions of security, I saw that my reactions to things will involve many different emotions. None of them are negative or positive on their own. They just are. This revelation freed me from being controlled by my emotions, too.

    Reply
  • SDM June 10, 2016, 4:36 am

    If you’re interested in Buddhism, may I suggest you look into Schopenhauer at some point also; his philosophy is based on similar lines. The only problem I have with it is that it’s decidedly negative; happiness is absence of suffering rather than a positive attribute in itself. My own problem with Buddhism likewise rooted around same criticisms. Both are hoever good to understand and form part of a philosophical toolkit for life, especially in tough situations.

    Reply
  • Matt June 10, 2016, 10:57 am

    MMM, will you stop talking about that darn Nissan Leaf, and just buy one already? I’ve never seen someone agonize over such a small decision, especially a guy that makes $400,000 a year on his blog, . You know it will put a smile on your face every time you use it, and will probably be the final push many of your readers need to buy one as well.

    I picked up a VW e-Golf at the height of the Dieselgate crisis, leased for a very cheap monthly rate. It is an amazing machine. Only drive it about 100 miles/week, so it gets charged once a week from a normal wall socket. Zero regrets.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 11, 2016, 12:47 pm

      Thanks for the kick, Matt. I have been checking Craigslist and come close a few times. But part of the story is that the car has to be a good deal, and nice looking, in order to appeal to people not sure about electric cars. This means I probably want a 2013 Leaf SL in silver, red, or black.

      The other part of the story is that you should generally poke around on Craigslist and ponder any car purchase for 6-12 months anyway – Any car is a big commitment and a big waste of money, so there’s no sense rushing into it. Sell quickly, buy slowly.

      Reply

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