Is Happiness Ever After Just a Myth?

Happiness expert, Paul Dolan, draws on the evidence of many psychological studies to explode many common myths about what makes us happy, and shows that there can be many routes to happiness. By freeing ourselves from the myth of the perfect life, we might each find a life worth living.

We are all told how to lead happy lives: make a lot of money, get a high-status job, get married and have children.

When it comes to income, the psychological evidence suggests that having too little and having too much money both make people miserable. The happiest people are those whose income lies in the middle, those who have enough, but not too much.

High-status work in itself does not make people happy: it can involve a lot of stress. What it is about work that makes people happy is working with people you like and seeing the results of your work. This is the case with hairdressers and florists, for example.

It’s a myth to think there is one person, a soul-mate, out there whom you just have to find. There are many possible partners, usually people of a similar age, living in the same town or city, who are also looking for a partner at the same time.

Having a partner does not make people happy ever after. Passionate love usually lasts one to two years. What can follow, if things go well, is companionate love. Marriage makes men happier and healthier than women.

With regard to having children, children don’t make people consistently happen. There are moments of great joy, and children may well give people a sense of purpose, but parents often suffer long periods of stress and anxiety – a phenomenon which is inevitable with children.

There is no one path to a happy life; each of us needs to find her or his own route to happiness. We should not follow the conventional path of striving to make a lot of money, getting a high-status job, getting married and having children. And we should not take a negative view of other people who do not follow this conventional path.

Paul Crichton, September 2019

(Paul Dolan, Prof. of Behavioural Science, London School of Economics, Happy Ever After: Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life, 2019)