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Nine things people who are happy have in common

I spent the past two weeks exploring what success and fulfilment mean, using happiness interchangeably. Of course, five days ago I walked into a charity bookshop and picked up a book called “Happiness by Design” by Paul Dolan which gave me a new perspective on what happiness means and gave a list of nine things people with higher life satisfaction have in common (number nine surprised me).

Paul’s perspective on happiness

When looking at what it means to be successful, I asked people on Instagram what success meant to them. Most people chose peace as the meaning of success and it was here that I realised the idea of fulfilment and success were two separate things that often get confused. In his book, Paul explains why. The idea of success and fulfilment he calls ‘purpose and pleasure’, and he explains how happiness is the intersection of both of these concepts.

The interesting thing about Paul’s definition of happiness is what brings us purpose doesn’t necessarily bring us pleasure. For example, people with children experience less pleasure, but more purpose and the same goes for people who are married.

It seems the intersection of these points relates to overall life satisfaction - and that’s what happiness is according to Paul. In summary, fulfilment is a part of happiness but happiness is more than fulfilment alone. Paul explains that through a lifetime of research, there are nine things people with happiness have in common.

Nine things people who have higher life satisfaction have in common

  1. They’re wealthier (especially compared to people who are like them)

  2. Are young or old (if you’re in your 40s or 50s and unsatisfied with your life, you’re not alone)

  3. They’re healthier

  4. They have lots of social contact

  5. They’re married or coinhabiting

  6. Are slightly more educated (having a degree is good, but people who maximise life satisfaction generally don’t have PhDs)

  7. Are religious (doesn't matter which one)

  8. Have a job

  9. Commute a short distance to work

To be honest

Nothing on this list surprised me except the impact of the commute point (who knew it could have such a big impact), but seeing happiness through Paul’s lens gives a clear picture of why doing the nine things above feels deeply satisfying to humans. I believe everything is about balance, but there’s a reason we chase things like wealth, connection and time that goes back to our days of hunting and gathering where these things were directly correlated to our survival in the short term.

When trying to answer the question of how to be successful, I realise I place a lot of emphasis on the first point of life satisfaction - which is becoming wealthier. I want monetary success because I’m 24 and I want to have enough money to take care of my parents and have autonomy in my life. To be hon