The Sad State of Happiness

June 3, 2014

by Dan Solin

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I have never met anyone who did not want to be happy. Yet few of us take concrete steps toward that goal.

Part of the problem is that too many of us confuse happiness with increased wealth.

I am absolutely convinced that those who follow the easy-to-implement principles based upon the sound research set forth in The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read will increase their assets under management. It turns out, however, that contrary to the mantra of Kevin O’Leary of reality show Shark Tank, it’s not “all about the money, all the time.”

Here’s some data that illustrates the pervasive level of unhappiness and why I believe so many people are unhappy.

How unhappy are we?

A 2010 Gallup survey measured the happiness of citizens of various countries. The results showed that citizens of prosperous countries are not always happier than those in less prosperous ones. Panama ranked higher in happiness than the United States, although the gross domestic product of the United States is six times higher than Panama’s. Israel, beset by the constant threat of armed conflict, and Venezuela, governed at the time by the erratic Hugo Chavez, both ranked higher than the United States.

Research shows a pervasive level of unhappiness in the United States, despite our relative wealth. One survey found that most people in the United States reported being unhappy at work. A 2006 study by the Pew Research Center found that about one-third of Americans were very happy. A minority of the people who attended church weekly reported being very happy. Married people were happier than unmarried people, but the majority of those in both groups reported being unhappy.

Since 1972, the average level of happiness for women has dropped, while the average level of happiness for men has increased. Men become happier as they age, but women become less happy.

The mysterious failure to pursue happiness

While doing research for Smartest Sales, I conducted a very unscientific survey. I asked as many people as possible to tell me if they were happy. The majority said they weren’t. Then I asked this question: “What makes you unhappy?” Not a single person failed to give me a specific response to this query. Many were unhappy at work. Some were in bad relationships. Others wanted to spend more time looking after their health through diet or exercise. Another common reason was an inability to spend more time with friends and family.

The fact that a lot of people were unhappy was consistent with other data I found. The goal of happiness is central to our core being. It’s even enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Surely, making changes to achieve this goal should not be too great a burden. But as far as I know, without exception, none of the people I talked to have made any adjustments to improve their situations.

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