The Happiness Paradox


The more you chase happiness, the more unhappy you shall become.

You can plot a linearly decreasing line between one’s pursuit of happiness on the X-axis and one’s actual happiness on the Y-axis.

But why?

Surely if you want something, setting a goal and chasing it seems like an excellent approach.

In a lot of cases, it is!

But the problem with happiness is that it comes from being happy in the present moment.

Chasing happiness implies not being satisfied with this current moment in time which means as you’re wishing for a different future, you’re fighting this moment in time which leads to feeling unhappy because you’re not able to exist anywhere else than in the present.

So by transitivity, chasing happiness implies being unhappy.

Now, where it gets interesting is that this same paradox applies to business.

Chasing revenue results in losing revenue.

That’s because revenue is a lagging indicator that reflects how much people love what you’re making/doing and how good you are in capturing a subset of the value you’ve created.

So when you start doing things that are in the best interest of your revenue, you start to lose sight of the members of your tribe who’re actually responsible for you having money in the first place.

(Think Apple’s death spiral 1985 to 1997 that IMO was solely the cause of putting revenue over user happiness with leaders who failed to realize and internalize the causal connection between the two.)

So focus on user happiness and use revenue as a reasonable proxy to measure how well you’re doing that.

RJ Youngling