I’ve been feeling especially thoughtful the past several weeks, and have been doing a lot of thinking about happiness in my life. I won’t pretend to know what makes everyone happy, as I’m certain that it is different for every individual, but I believe that I’ve discovered what makes me happy: simplicity.
What My Happiness Isn’t
To fully explain what my happiness is (as it may be hard for some people to understand), I’ll start by explaining several things that my happiness distinctly isn’t.
‘Fuck You’ Money
I frequently see threads on HackerNews where I see users discussing how they want to make their own successful startup, work hard for a year or two, then get bought out and live happily ever after. I like to call these people the ‘Paul Grahammers’. They live and die by the philosophy (made famous by the really smart Paul Graham), that you should create your own wealth by working on a startup, and eventually selling it to a larger company.
Now, before you get angry, I do like Paul Graham, and think that his advice is awesome, it just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t need much money.
There was a time (a long time, really), when I thought that being rich would make me happy. I could travel anywhere, buy anything, and enjoy the best luxuries in life.
But, I don’t need that much money. I need just enough to:
- Make payments on my student loans.
- Make car payments.
- Pay rent.
- Buy groceries each month.
- Buy a new computer every year or two.
- Get my wife a present every now and then :)
I don’t buy that much stuff. As a matter-a-fact, I’ve got 150$ worth of Amazon gift cards sitting on my desk, which I have no idea how to spend, as I already own everything I want.
My only luxury purchases are books (but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so won’t buy any others for a while).
I’m a big fan of books. I read everyday, and love it. Most of the books I read are tech related, but I also enjoy business and lifestyle books. I can’t count how many of them preach that a good life is a free life (away from work).
I also can’t seem to escape this dogma when talking to friends, co-workers, and relatives: nobody wants to work.
I like working. I do something I love (coding) everyday, and couldn’t be happier. For me, working is about learning. Everyday I devote myself to solving a new problem, and, along the way, learn new stuff.
I’m not saying that I want to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year–I highly value time off–but I do enjoy working.
Just some quick background: my father was a Christian minister for years, and is now the president of a large Christian organization. My mother as well as some of my siblings are also religious.
I’m not a religious guy. When I was in my teens, I began questioning my beliefs, and soon realized that I was unable to accept religion in my life, for numerous reasons that I won’t go into here.
The important bit is, I know a lot of people who prescribe to the idea that in order to be happy, you must have a good relationship with God, or some sort of higher being.
This could not be more false. As an atheist, I’ve been living happily and carefree for quite some time now.
Living without religion, and not trying to achieve acceptance from a creator has been a very liberating experience in my life, and constantly reminds me how lucky I am to be here, and how precious every day is.
What My Happiness Is
The things that truly make me happy are simple pleasures. Some of them I’ve only recently come to terms with, and some have been clear to me for as long as I can remember.
Silence is highly underrated. I’ve noticed more and more as I’ve grown up, that most people tend to be afraid of silence.
In today’s world, there is constant movement and noise: Facebook, Twitter, news sites, phone calls, text messages, video conferences, etc. It seems like no matter what, people are compelled to be constantly moving, working, and talking.
I love silence.
It seems to accentuate the beauty of the world. The sun quietly setting over the ocean, the sun rising over the mountains, the short time I lie in bed before falling asleep-they all make me happy.
I got married recently (April 3, 2010) to my high school sweetheart. I’ve loved her for a long time, and couldn’t possibly be happier with another person.
We haven’t always had the luxury of spending a lot of time together through our relationship, but have recently been able to spend a lot of time together, and it has made me realize how important spending time with her really is to my overall happiness.
Falling asleep together at night, waking up together in the morning, and talking to each other throughout the day all make life so much better.
Another simple (and underrated) pleasure is nature.
- Taking a midnight drive to the beach, and walking along the coast.
- Watching squirrels chase each other around a tree.
- Watching rain clouds slowly cover the sky.
- Lying down on a blanket at the park, staring at the trees.
- Looking up into the night sky at stars.
I can’t begin to explain how relaxing and satisfying it is to me to step outside for a few minutes each day and take a deep breath.
Feeling that I’m a part of something much larger and more important than myself is a good feeling. It makes me feel happy, peaceful, and relaxed.
I like to think that I lead a simple life. I eat, sleep, work, learn, and play.
After seriously analyzing my life these past several weeks, I’ve come to the clear conclusion that simplicity is what makes me happy. I used to think that happiness was a complex thing, something that only the most wealthy and successful people were able to obtain, but I’ve come to realize the opposite.
My happiness has been defined by the removal of unnecessary and distracting things, as opposed to the collection and accumulation of more.