Happiness is a Bitch

Albeit I was just having a bit of fun with the post “What to buy with €700.000“, it always draws some more “serious” reactions (online and offline). This included about “being happy in the perfect house” and “I don’t mind delaying FIRE due to my big house because I’m happy with my job”. I’m here today to tell you that happiness is a bitch. Wait, what?!

Happiness is a Bitch

First off, the definition of happiness is already a bitch, because there are many opinions and theories about it. It’s notoriously difficult to measure too, as you can do it in various ways. Note, I’m not an expect by any stretch of the imagination (nor qualified), but the summary from our friends at Wiki give some indication.

That I want to get into today is the definition under the psychology section in the above mentioned Wiki page. It states this: Happiness in its broad sense is the label for a family of pleasant emotional states, such as joy, amusement, satisfaction, gratification, euphoria, and triumph.

Happiness is a bitch.
Happiness is a bitch.

Emotional States

I guess happiness can be instigated as just a physical response too. For example by eating of drinking something you like. I personally get really happy from having a good beer in combination with a movie (no, not the new Baywatch movie). It’s that lovely Friday night feeling of amusement and satisfaction. Other things that make one happy in a very physical way: working out! The release of endorphins work miracles. Walking in the sun, bingo, vitamine D! Makes most people, including me, very happy campers.

Where it get’s more complicated is when it really becomes psychological and emotional. This is always a minefield as your state of mind changes all the time, depending if you are tired, euphoric (if you just been running/cycling), lonely, etc. It notoriously unstable-ish. What’s my point? Life!

Life can be a bitch too

Life is not always fair. There are times when things go well, and there are times you feel like you are being bulldozed over by a freight train (or was it a bulldozer?!). Some people are better at handling this then others. Some just brush if off and move on, some are scared by it for life. How you react to bad situations in your life if personal, just like finances.

Where am I going with this? You might be happy now, with your house, your job, your life. But this WILL change! Life changes constantly and nothing will continue indefinitely. You may get sick, you may get a moron of a boss, business decisions might make you lose your job, your partner might decide to successfully Tinder, you might even get hit by a bus. Something always happens.

Job safisfaction

So why am I warning you? Because it happened to me and I see it happening to many others too. For the first years of my career I was euphoric most of the times. I loved what I was doing. I had no desire to do anything else. Then company politics kicked in. I got removed from work I was doing. I had to go back to old colleagues and do different work, which I didn’t like. I want for euphoric to unhappy.

That being said, I tried many different things. Looked for (and worked at) new jobs, tried to develop myself personally, worked out more. Nothing helped. I could not get back to that level of happiness I experienced before in my career. It was frustrating like hell. So I quit. Still don’t know what I’m going to do (next) when I grow up. Besides have a beer in about 10,5 months.

Happiness is a bitch, have another beer!
Happiness is a bitch, have another beer!

Big House

Let’s get ack to buying an expensive house (or castle) because you think it makes you happy. I did it (honestly, Mrs CF was not convinced)! The first house we bought together was massive (for Dutch understandings anyways). Over 280m2 (3.100sft) of living space. We had 3,5 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, a bonus room, rec room with pool table and 3m diameter home cinema, big kitchen, walk-in closets. It was awesome!

But after living there for 5 years, I had to come to the conclusion that it was not making either of us happy. It was great to live there, but it was NOT making us happy. It was a very fancy roof over our heads. A very expensive roof too!

The various housing expenses could have helped us become financially free & independent a lot sooner. Being financially free is an emotional state that is almost guaranteed to make you happy. Because it give you something that really helps these fluctuating emotions: no stress and the choice to do what you like.

Still like your job, definitely continue to the point where you don’t. Want to buy that bigger house, go for it! But don’t expect it to make you happy, you need different things for that. Expect it to make you life more comfortable.

Moral of the Story

The moral of this story? Happiness is a bitch! Life can be a Bitch. Be flexible in your life find out what actually makes you happy! Try new things and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. But once you do find out that something is not making you happy, act!

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14 Comments

  1. Tss, everybod know happiness is the result from an enhanced release of your serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. If you, at the same time block the reuptake of these neurotransmitters this results in increased neurotransmitter levels within the synaptic cleft (the space between the neurons at a synapse) = happiness 😉

  2. Lastig onderwerp dit. Ik denk dat het allemaal niet zo eenvoudig is. Zeker als je het gevoel hebt vast te lopen in je werk zuigt dat wel alle positieve energie uit je leven. Tenminste zo voelt het voor mij momenteel ook. Ook ik heb wel hele leuke tijden gehad in mijn werk. uiteindelijk gaat het gevoel van je goed voelen niet uit je werk of andere zaken komen, maar moet dat vanuit jezelf komen. van de andere kant moet je ook realistisch zijn, dat het onmogelijk is als niet narcist om je in elke situatie je gelukkig te voelen met jezelf en je situatie. Financieel onafhankelijk zijn zal het gemakkelijker maken om dingen wel of niet te doen, maar aan je persoonlijkheid en de manier waarop je in het leven staat zal dat niet meteen iets veranderen. In mijn geval ben ik misschien toch ook op zoek naar een stuk zingeving. Ik heb ook een leuke vrouw en 2 leuke kinderen mooi huis etc. En ben ook bezig financieel wat onafhankelijker te worden.

    1. Ik denk dat het aan de ene kant wel mee valt. Je weet van jezelf heel goed of je wel of niet gelukkig bent, in meer of mindere mate. Je weet vaak ook wat er moet gebeuren om gelukkiger te worden. Er ook werkelijk wat aan doen is een ander verhaal. Dit kan heel moeilijk zijn afhankelijk van de beperkingen die je hebt in je leven (inclusief jezelf).

  3. Sorry, I agree with Flow, Divnomics and Mr Thinkingbig…

    …I even think I said something last month that you should read more 😉 Now that makes about 4 of us.

    Happiness, it’s the most important thing of all. But there is no finish line at the ‘Fire’ point. You are not running to some kind of ‘point’ where it’s all so much better, in that case you’ll keep running forever, towards the next beer, movie or … In that case it won’t matter if you live in that 280m2 house or an 50m2 150k apartment.

    You’re not going to be happy because you removed the traffic jams or early wake-ups. You just removed some things you just don’t like.

    1. @meneer, @flow, @Divnomics, @Mrthinking big: What is it with people and thinking books will tell you how happiness works? I just told you my experience of the past 10 years and what made me happy and what didn’t. I don’t need some guys’s book to tell me whether I’m right or wrong, or how it works. I pretty good at figuring that out by my self, thank you very much. Having a crappy job did not make me happy, despite that the rest of my life being fine/great. External factors affect your happiness, whether you admit that or not. If you are sick, miserable or got hit by a car, you won’t be happy (to some degree). Whether you let this take over your whole life is probably personal, but the longer something lasts, the more unhappy you will become. Or at least that was the case for me.

      Freedom for me is the ultimate thing that makes me happy, supplementen by all the good things in life like health, friends, family (and beer 😉 ). I’ve always happy with being me, that has never been an issue. I just had periods in my life that I was not happy with due to external influences.

  4. Agreeing with Thinkingbig and Divnomics. The book of Mo Gawdat gave me some good insights. I also can recommend De kunst van goed leven van Rolf Dobelli.
    And indeed Fire or in our case enough FU money can give you freedom and that Ian make you happy.

  5. To me, personally, happiness is about a contentment about self. So not about what I do, not about what I own, nor what I earn. Not even my family and loved ones. The first step is that I am happy being me. I am happy being my while unemployed, sick, soaked from rain. But also while surrounded by my beautiful wife and my two (also happy!) children.

    Happiness for me is INSIDE myself. Most of the discussion seems to be about OUTSIDE stuff. Which can make me joy, gratification, amusement and triumph – obviously. But happy? Only I can give that to me. Mandela wrote a lot about this, the living inside oneself. Worth a read.

    So for me: this whole FI, FIRE and money thing… It has nothing to do with my happiness at all. It does have everything to do with how much time I have to do stuff I want to do.

    1. You clearly have not had a crappy job that made you unhappy. If that happens, let’s chat again. Suddenly money and FIRE (indirectly) makes you really happy!
      The point is exactly that all that stuff from outside affects the inside… you cannot decouple.

      1. Uhm I’m going to agree on Mr. ThinkingBig here. I am currently experimenting a lot with mental states and you can clearly find happiness within a not so fun situation. At least, that is how I experience it myself. Fun and happiness are not the same. Whereas fun is a short time euphoric feeling of joy, happiness is more of a long term flow where you are overall happy with yourself as the person you are.

        The real challenge is to not let the world around you effect how you feel inside. It’s not about what is happening, but on how you respond to it that matters. If you’re interested, read more on Stoicism. Or the book from Mo Gawdat on happiness!

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