emotional intelligence

Happy is a 5 letter word that many use as the answer to what is the point of life. The follow up question of “How can you be happy” is usually followed by a blank stare, so here’s my study of the subject.

The Three Types of Happy

Pleasure through Consumption

The joy of consumption. Eating chocolate, watching TV, procrastinating. These joys are like sweet food, they have a jolt of pleasure, but they go quickly, and leave you wanting more.

Flow through Production

The joy of production. This happens when you are doing something challenging enough to keep you engaged, but easy enough to support continued progress. These joy is sustained for hours, and you know you’re there when you look up and realize you’ve just spent 4 hours (QQ: Is binge watching joy?)

Satisfaction through Identity Purpose and Self Actualization

The joy of identity, purpose, and actualization. This happens when you are supporting your identity. The doing can be miserable, but the satisfaction of being who you want to be is powerful, and lasts and lasts. Even thinking about your identity can sustain you.

The prophet on pleasure

Or have you only pleasure, and the lust for pleasure, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master? Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires. Verily the lust for pleasure murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

The Equations of Happy

A good summary of happiness

1. Subjective Well-being = Genes + Circumstances + Life

2. Life = Purpose + Friends + Family + Work + Hobby

3. Satisfaction = What you have / What you want

The Pursuit of happiness

An interesting take on the pursuit of happiness. Note, the pursuit of happiness is different from the mood happy.

The pursuit of happiness is not just a journey, but more importantly a skill.

The pursuit of happiness is to the mood happy as climate is to weather. Fairbanks has a harsh climate, but can have some warm days. Even though there are some warm days, it is still a harsh climate.

By contrast, Hawaii is a super climate (or so I’m told) even though it will have the odd day of bad weather.

Inner Peace

State of mind where you maintain freedom (ability to choose). Especially the freedom to choose avoiding suffering (the meaning made of mental pain), and anxiety (desire to control).

Getting what you want, in the pleasure sense, is not freedom. For example, a junkie wants a hit of heroin, and will do whatever is requried to get it. When the fix is delivered, the junkie is not free.

However, getting what you want in the “identity sense”, probably is freedom.


An intense emotional response (either positive or negative) toward an aspect of reality, for which there is an automatic experience of value.

Passion (i.e., being passionate about something) is synonymous with caring and suffering (from the Latin word passiō which means suffering).


Compassion is about removing suffering, and accepting people as they are. This applies both to others and to yourself.

When someone throws a rock at you, you don’t get mad at the rock, you get mad at the person. But no one wants to throw a rock at you they likely did it due to their suffering. So, just as you don’t get mad at the rock, don’t get mad at the person, get mad at their suffering.

Compassion can be broken down with a time dimension.

Time Behavior Practice Behavior Definition
Past Forgiveness Humility Give up hope for a better past
Present Acceptance Gratefulness Recognizing you have received more then your fair share
Future Hope Patience Believe the future can be better then the present
  • When people behave poorly (in your mind), it is due to their suffering.
  • Compassion clarifies the person’s suffering, not the person, is the source of the problem. Suffering is unacceptable. The person is acceptable (see getting to yes, hard on problems soft on people).
  • Love, especially as applied to children, is the highest form of compassion a 11/10.
  • Sounds like the fundamental attribution error: When you do something wrong, you attribute to circumstance, when others do thing wrong you attribute you malice/incompetence/personality.

The Three of you

A week ago, I was at a gala, and I ate a few chocolate truffles because they made me happy. I suspect it was wonderful, but honestly I don’t remember if that was the case. Even worse, as I try to button up my pants and the pants are too tight, I’m feeling quite unhappy about eating the truffles.

In the above paragraph there were three “I”’s or “selves” being referenced. The present experiencing self, the future remembering self, and the future experiencing self. To concisely refer to these three selves we’ll call them the experiencing self, the remembering self, and the future self.

As you think of three different selves there are two big questions. First, when you thinking about the costs and benefits of an action, think through the cost and benefits for the different selves. Second, decide which of the three selves you want to optimize for.

With luck your present self enjoys this post, your future self remembers enjoying the post, and this prompts your future self to re-read and enjoy the post again.




Maximize Pleasure




Your Idle loop

Peak end rule

We remember according to the peak end rule, the average of the peak event and the last event. This is why you should end your vacations with something awesome (as opposed to fighting with your family). The most cited example of the peak end rule e comes from the world of colonoscopies. Normally the colonoscopy takes 60 minutes and ends with ‘maximum pain’, if the surgeon artificially extend your colonoscopy to 90 minutes at low pain, the patient remembers the colonoscopy as less painful, even though it contained the “painful colonoscopy” followed by additional less painful colonoscopy.


Most of life is auto-pilot (think about how a 2 hour movie, cover years of life). Think about how you drive somewhere and have no idea how you got home. Think about what you had for breakfast yesterday, or even today.

The things you remember are moments. Optimize for them.

Models of mood

Mood is an in the moment evaluation of the quality of the present moment. As a model,

State Description
Self My assessment of self
Other My assessment of others (including inanimate objects like possions)
Process My interactions with said objects
State Past Present Future


In the original, it’s about comfort, not pleasure.

Other Resources