The Happiness Equilibrium

Everyone knows that as we get older, life gets infinitely more complicated. With each ‘milestone’ comes another dimension which gives rise to another set of situations where the decisions you make, will ultimately leave us feeling compromised and not entirely happy. However, if you can follow and achieve what I am going to dub The Happiness Equilibrium, you may just be able to escape this fate.

So let me give you a very basic version of  The Happiness Equilibrium.

Health + Career + Social + Cash ⇌ Happiness Number

If this makes perfect sense to you then you probably don’t need to read on. However, if you want to read on and better understand what I’m getting at, let’s take a step back to something most people are generally familiar with – The 3 dimensional success paradigm.


When we are at school/university we essentially have 3 dimensions; sleep, grades and social status. Most people accept that only two are ever really possible (e.g. sleep and grades means no social life) and that to attempt all three successfully, is for only a select few. Ultimately, we all comprise and form an augmented version of the three (e.g. 2/3 sleep, 2/3 grades, 2/3 social for a total of 2 dimensions).


Once we start working, we are often mistaken as we begin to think that we can now accomplish all three. After all we ‘only’ work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday; meaning that there’s plenty of time for sleep and socialising. If we then substitute career for grades, it’s pretty easy to achieve this dimension as we’re kick goals at work. Factor in the boost in cash and we may even allow ourselves to think we’re smashing the game right out of the ball park given the new level of socialising we can now partake in.


However as we all know, we are a predictable society which only has finite resources to satisfy unlimited wants (I’ve paraphrased the economic scarcity conundrum). Therefore, by this rationale, our new found supremacy will be short lived. Soon the glory of this honeymoon period will dry up such that we will have to return to the familiar feeling of compromise.

Just in case I’ve lost you, let’s recap.


Once we join the work force the game evolves and what was previously a 3 dimensional game (sleep, grades and social status), has now evolved into a 4 dimensional monster (health, career, social networking and cash). Now instead of compromising one dimension to achieve the other two, you now find yourself often giving up two or more to achieve one (e.g. Having cash may mean sacrificing health and social). I know this feeling all too well as too often I’ve chosen cash and career over health and social.


I definitely see the irony, but in order to recover my health (and sanity) and deal with the ‘pressures’ of work, I end up purchasing way too much Purple Label and indulging in much too pricey a d!nner. As such, I can never really attain more than two dimensions. I could keep going on and on with examples or personal experiences but I think I’ve said enough for you to now understand the left hand side variables which form the Happiness Equilibrium (a quick recap is health, career, social and cash).

However, what you may not have connected to all this is the fact that happiness is capped. By this I mean it is finite. It has a limit and once you understand this and figure out your limit, then and only then can you be ‘happy.’ This is where the right hand side of the equilibrium comes into play.


We are a cash based society so it’s not  unreasonable to assume that the happiness number has monetary value. Studies have shown that happiness as a function of remuneration converges on a single number. We can therefore infer that this means that beyond a certain point, increases in salary do not make you happier due to the associated compromises. For want of a better word, this point is what I’ve dubbed as the happiness number. In theory, once we figure out this number, any combination of health, career, social and cash will be at its optimum should they add up to the happiness number.


A quick practical example is the notion that everyone would prefer to cry in a Ferrari. It shouldn’t take much for me to point out that if its not your life long dream to own a prancing pony, then you probably have not achieved the happiness equilibrium. After all, the average person is going to be making all sorts of compromises to make this a reality. However, if you did it within the framework of the equilibrium then in theory you could be comfortable with your decision and therefore happy.

So there you have it, go and figure out your happiness number and be happy.

P.S. In case you were wondering, the study found the happiness number to be US$75K p.a (approx AU$100K). Make of it what you will.



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