Four Dangerous Myths About Happiness

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Happiness is a right.

The idea that happiness is a timeless right is dangerous because we take it for granted when we should protect it.

Happiness is a concept that evolves with time and historical achievement.

Historian Darrin McMahon recounts the evolution of happiness in his book Happiness: a History.

To summarize,

  • In the Persian empire, happiness was not believed to be a human thing and was reserved for the gods. It was difficult to understand since there was a lot of misery and few medical, political, and social advances.
  • With the rise of democracy in ancient Greece, people realized that their emotions — including happiness — could depend mainly on them. Prove of this left with the birth of schools as different as epicureanism or stoicism.
  • Due to authoritarian regimes and misery, we go backward like crabs during the Middle Ages.
  • The European Renaissance brought us back to the belief that we deserved happiness.
  • In the Enlightenment, we stopped believing that happiness was a thing of heaven and began to see that it was possible on earth for as long as our life experience lasted.
  • It was not until the mid-18th century that happiness became so widespread that it began to be seen as a fundamental human right.

Since then, the concept has continued to evolve from the “American Dream” to hyper-individualism or personal empowerment, but we must learn from history not to repeat it.

We do not want to go back to what happened at other times. We should not take happiness for granted and fight for it daily by defending democracy and freedom of expression.

It has taken thousands of years for you to have the opportunity to be happy. Please don’t waste it; protect it; do it for you and your ancestors.

And speaking of apes…

If you meet the expectations, you will be happy.

Nobody knows for sure if this experiment is real, but you can take it as a fable,

Imagine that you have three healthy monkeys in a cage next to a ladder, and there are bananas on top of the ladder.

One of the three monkeys will climb the ladder and take the bananas. But when this happens, cold water falls from the ceiling.

The same thing happens day after day; one monkey climbs the ladder to get the bananas, and cold waterfalls on all the monkeys.

Ultimately, no monkey dares to climb the ladder to get the bananas.

So far, so good, but the funny thing is that if we replace one of the monkeys with a new monkey when he comes up for the bananas, the other two will prevent him.

Once we have conditioned the new monkey, we replace the original monkey with a new one and repeat the process.

Finally, we replace the only monkey left from the beginning.

No monkey goes up for the bananas, but it is not because of the cold water shower, as none of them know that this is happening: they are all new monkeys.

The moral of the story: prejudice is acquired.

What does this have to do with happiness?

Sometimes, we meet the expectations of our monkey tribe (family, friends, co-workers) to fit in, but in doing so, we are not happy, even though we were supposed to be happy if we stood still and didn’t pick the bananas, aka do what socially is well seen,

  • To work in this and not in that
  • To have one ideology and not another
  • Get married and not stay single
  • [Insert here the social convention of your choice].

And the worst thing is not to be unhappy: the worst thing is not to eat bananas without anyone knowing if we will get cold water.

We all fulfill the outdated expectations of previous centuries, and maybe now are no longer valid (no cold water), and there are no old monkeys left in the cage that lived 200 years ago.

We are all new monkeys afraid of what people will say when what people say no longer makes sense in this hyper-individualistic society where everyone is too busy looking at their navel to care about what others are doing.


Your wedding day is the happiest day of your life.

Bullshit. For many of my friends, divorce day was.

The wedding day concept applies to the day I met my soul mate, graduated, got the job of my dreams, etc.

Happiness is not in achieving the big goals and avoiding failures.

On the one hand, there is adaptive hedonism: one gets used to the good things quickly and loses the magic.

On the other hand, failures make us feel more capable and resilient.

You have to understand

  • There’s no perfect job
  • There’s no ideal couple
  • There’s no perfect lifegoal
  • There’s no perfect life.

Your happiness can’t depend on those things because the day your partner leaves you or you get fired from your job will eventually come, and you’ll have to move on.

The good news is that happiness is in the little things; in the words of Jordan Peterson,

“You’re life isn’t drinking margaritas on a beach in Jamaica. Those are exceptions. Your life is how you treat your loved ones over the breakfast table daily.”

You get those mundane things you do every day right; you get the 80% of your life put together.

Money does not bring happiness.

Try to be happy without money. If you’re not a monk, you need it.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be happy, but you have to meet your needs.

An economics professor once told me, “The most important thing about a job is that you get paid well because you don’t sleep well or enjoy your free time if you don’t get paid well.”

And yes, I know there are other things more important than money. Still, the phrase “Money does not bring happiness” is hazardous because it makes us forget how necessary it is to have the resources to care for ourselves and help others.

Don’t forget that even the good Samaritan had to have a couple of coins to help the beggar 🙂

Money is fuel; you need it to drive through life.

See you on the road.

A virtual hug


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