The new thought experiment! About happiness this time! Woohoo!


Please see my last thought experiment post for the description of the concept.

Before we start

Oh, this time I feel quite excited and I was looking forward to the new experiment. I am extremely curious what it is about. Somehow I started to really enjoy participating in them. I am reading “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan these days and there they write about “Journaling”. Basically writing down your thoughts as they are, without blocking them. They claim that this allows you to understand yourself better and overall become happier. Today I understood that SavingNinja experiments are like that! So, the therapeutic effect is included! And it is completely for free! Ok, looks like I jumped to dumping my thoughts too early, let’s actually have a look at the new experiment. I hope it is not scary.

The statement

Most people’s lives are filled with so much commotion. We’re constantly moving and thinking like an electrode jumping from atom to atom. There are very few moments when we experience true clarity, when we have a chance to really think clearly. These moments may come when reaching a mountain peak in the early hours of the morning or when you’re sitting up late one night and silently staring at the stars. Lots of life-changing decisions can be made in these moments; when you have the time to think about true happiness.

So, for this Thought Experiment, I’d like you to create one of these moments for yourself. I’d like you to think, and I mean really think about what you want and need to make yourself and your family happy.

What do you need to achieve real, true happiness? What are you aspiring to? Paint that perfect picture, you will need it as a guide whilst you make your way through life.

The experiment page is here (it includes links to answers of others, I definitely recommend).

My answer

I don’t know the word “commotion”. Let’s see the definition.

commotion - a state of confused and noisy disturbance.

Oh, ok, that’s approximately what I guessed. Ok, reading further.

<finished reading>

Oh, this sounds really tricky. True happiness.

So, I have no clue, but I start to get vague ideas, so let’s go with something and then see where this brings us (oh, this is so meta-meta level now).

I definitely would like more control in my life and a better guarantees for the worst case scenario. It is hard to define control well, but I can give a couple of examples. E.g. when I wake up one morning and I have to go to work, but don’t feel like it at all. I am not physically sick. I just don’t feel like working today. I would love to be able to just say - “ok, a good day not to work” and just not to work. Currently, I can’t do that.

The worst-worst case is death. This I don’t consider much, because I probably can’t affect it much either. So by the worst case scenario I mean something like I lose my ability to earn money and then I don’t have enough to live. I would like to know that if something like this happens, I have enough to just be. I.e. I won’t need to be needed. In some sense this is like an insurance.

But both of these examples follow from my desire to reach FIRE. If I had to explain why I want to reach FIRE, these would be the first two examples. This somewhat discredits them.

Oh, did I mention journaling in the book above? They claimed that one can understand themselves and what they want better. So I should probably try that.

Apart from that I definitely would like to be healthy. This is probably a precondition for everything else. It is funny that this did not come as the first idea, but whatever.

Ok, I started to derail, I will reread the statement again.

So I would like enough time and financial resources to satisfy my insatiable curiosity. < I had to check the definition of “insatiable”, because I was not sure>. To be honest, calling it financial resources is probably an overkill. I can definitely find plenty of interesting stuff costing 0 or close to 0. But when considering the time, the situation is completely different. I definitely would like more free time and just to do stuff for the sake of doing it without any other (e.g. financial) incentives. I think this is called time affluence. I suppose when I gradually lose it in my life, I start feeling bad and then notice absence of time affluence, slowly regain it back and start feeling better again.

But this is again just equivalent to “become FIRE”. Oh, SavingNinja, you are putting me into a tricky situation here.

So then more communication with people would be nice. I feel like it is overall fun (depends on people, but with some it is amazing), but I kind of lazy enough not to try that hard to establish something with others. As a result, I don’t communicate often. Occasionally it works out well and I feel very nice. I also have strong views (aka stubborn), so with some people it is just hard (not for me, I suppose, mostly for them). This desire is probably coming from outside. I just heard from multiple sources that this makes people happier (including the happiness course on Coursera, I did a proper review for it as well as a brief summary).

Oh, I am really scared to reread this. It probably makes little sense. It would be funny just to post this without rereading at all, but I need to at least fix my typos.

I would also be very surprised if this experiment would really change my life dramatically. It takes me ages to make a decision, but once I do that, it is very unlikely that I will change it (see “strong views” above and also I need quite a few arguments to make a decision, so it is unlikely that all of them become void at the same time). Thus, changing my views is very gradual process. This could be a trigger or the beginning of the shift, but not an actual change.

I am also scared that FIRE will lose its charm once I reach it. Basically, now having free time could look so nice, because the time is scarce. Once I have free time, what if this charm and magic just goes away due to absence of scarcity? Scary!

Yeap, finding a perfect life partner would be great. Oh, perhaps even understanding what “perfect” means would already be amazing. Oh, a funny observation, “understanding what would make me happy would make me happy”. Technically I should be happy already :) that’s like a recursive criterion of happiness, because I know that “understanding what would make me happy” would make me happy. And since I know this I should be happy now. Ok, at least this made me smile.

So I would say - health, FIRE with freedom and control coming out of it, a bunch of interesting people to talk to (who would inspire me), an obviously great life partner (without whom I would not be able to imagine my life). It is actually funny that it is quite a strong criterion: “without whom I would not be able to imagine my life”. My worry is that I may be overshooting. Like the maximal level could be like “having great time together”, but I ask for “not being able to imagine my life without” and as a result refuse good relationships. Oh, how did it go into relationships?

< rereading the statement again >

I would also love to make people, who I care about, happy. Try to improve their life and help them to make the best out of it. This can mean challenging them or traveling together. This does not mean making it as easy as possible.

I would also probably need acknowledgment from other people. I.e. some positive feedback for what I am doing. It might be interesting to do something for the sake of it and my own joy, but so far I cannot imagine this. E.g. painting something which no one else in the world would ever enjoy or find interesting. This is a valid activity and I can see how it could be pleasant, but somehow I can’t imagine doing this at this stage. I would rather try to impress others. In some sense this adds challenge or in the math terms - regularization. When doing it for myself, there are no limits or boundaries. Whatever I do is the right thing. It can be tempting to choose the easy path. For others, there is always some external limit, which I can’t cross, otherwise they will refuse the result.

Oh, also being able to use computer sustainably would be amazing as well. So far I feel like no matter which approach I choose with my setup, it works for some time and then I discover that actually some part of my body does not like that approach. It is not that acute, but slowly it accumulates and after some time I notice that something is fishy and “let’s start this game again”. So somehow being sure that what I am doing with my computer setup is reasonably sustainable would be amazing! It is hard to imagine my life without a computer.

At the same time, I would like to spend more time in nature as well. Perhaps more days without Internet. I occasionally spend a day without Internet at all. I just turn off my router and that’s it. Somehow it feels very differently. Easy and calm. Amazing. I definitely can’t explain that. So I would like to try to have more of such days.

Also doing projects with others would be interesting (like a combination of my curiosity and communication). Now I don’t have enough time for this (blink, blink at SavingNinja and our plans for a game-project, I feel sorry for not having much progress).

Oh, I just looked back and I wrote really a lot. I even feel a bit lazy to reread it. Ok, I did reread it anyway. I did write a lot. Somehow it went mostly from “what I am scared of”, but I think this is fine. I did say that I don’t have much clue what would make me really happy. That’s also why I am trying to reach FIRE. This sounds like a good tool for whatever I decide later. Also working in the office until 67 or so does not go into that list for sure.

Also I would like to point out that happiness course (which I already mentioned above and even gave links to my reviews, it would be weird to give them again) thinks about happiness somewhat differently. Basically, it is about (I am not looking into the reviews, just doing this from memory) having enough money, having enough free time (time affluence), deep social connections and doing kindness, being in the flow, good reference points (not comparing yourself with others or at least not with wrong others), good sleep, enough sport.

Ok, I hope you enjoyed it. This was challenging and I was in the flow for sure. Thank you, SavingNinja for challenging me and bringing plenty of food for thought! I am looking forward to what others will write.

Happy discovering what makes you happy (without my recursive tricks above)!