Back in 1922, Albert Einstein wrote something down and handed it to a bellboy as a tip (he claims he didn’t have any change) and stated that, if he was lucky, the piece of paper could be worth more than a tip one day.
That piece of paper recently sold for $1.56 Million.
The grandson of that bellboy’s brother was the recipient. Einstein’s prophecy proved to be correct, and that bellboy’s family received a truly generous tip.
So…what was on that piece of paper?
Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness
The Secret To Happiness
According to Einstein, striving for “A Calm And Modest Life” while avoiding “The Pursuit of Success Combined With Constant Restlessness” is the secret to happiness.
Is his theory correct?
While most of Einstein’s Theories are more scientific in nature, and thereby more easily proven using a scientific method, this Theory Of Happiness is different. It’s “softer”, and harder to prove with data.
Today, we’re going to try to prove it.
Side Note: Seems I’m not the only person who likes to weave in some “soft stuff” with my “hard stuff” (as longtime readers know, I enjoy alternating between the two styles in my writing, given that both are important to achieve a great retirement). I’m honored to be in such esteemed company….
Let’s read Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness Again:A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness. Albert Einstein Click To Tweet
In today’s post, I’m going to break down Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness, and see what we can learn from the words of a genius written 97 years ago.
Breaking Down Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness
In order to prove Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness, we’ll evaluate the elements contained within the Theory. Let’s start with the opening line:
1. A Calm And Modest Life
Most folks live anything BUT a calm and modest life. In a world where success is often measured in material goods, many folks run themselves ragged in pursuit of stuff. Does this type of harried lifestyle lead to happiness? In doing some research for this post, I googled “How Many People Are Happy”. According to this article that I found, 33% of Americans consider themselves happy. More interesting to me was the following quote from the CEO of Harris Poll, in response to the findings from their survey:
“We are so caught up in our texting, multitasking, jobs and commutes that we seem to have less and less free time. Older people age 65+ are the happiest.”
I wonder if there’s a correlation between “older people are the happiest” and the reality that older people are more likely to lead a calm and modest life. Let’s assume so, and use it as the basis to conclude that the first piece of the theory is correct.
2. The Pursuit Of Success
If you’re like me, you know some folks who are “caught up” in The Pursuit of Success. I’ve known dozens of folks throughout my career who were in full throttle pursuit of material success, often at a cost in other areas of their lives.
I can’t speak for all of them, but I think it’s fair to conclude that many of them are not, indeed, “happy”. This conclusion seems to be supported by an article in Psychology Today which concludes that “materialism is associated with unhappiness”. The following quote from the article is relevant:
“On the contrary, research has shown people who make their happiness and satisfaction contingent upon consumption tend to be less happy and more dissatisfied with life.” Psychology Today
Let’s use that study’s conclusion as evidence that The Pursuit of Success is not a proven path to happiness, thereby confirming another element of Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness.
3. Constant Restlessness
The final element in Einstein’s Theory of Happiness is that Constant Restlessness interferes with true happiness. This one is a little harder to “prove” with facts, so I’m going to go with personal experience.
We all have had periods of Constant Restlessness in our lives.
Think for a minute about a time in your life when you had “Constant Restlessness”. Were you happy?
I think of a time when I was having a pretty serious conflict with my boss. For almost a year, I had many restless nights and tossed and turned as I struggled with how to deal with my situation. Like most things, life went on and I was able to improve my situation. I accepted a position working elsewhere in the company, and my previous boss ultimately left the organization. However, during my period of Constant Restlessness, I was most certainly NOT happy.
So, pulling from personal experience, I’ll conclude that Einstein’s third element was correct.
The Final Test
Thus far, it seems that Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness is holding up to our evaluation.
Let’s look at one last experiment, drawing from a real-life experience my wife and I had last summer on an island in the Pacific Northwest. As we look at our experience, I encourage you to think of a time in your life when you had a similar experience and compare it to Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness. I suspect you’ll find evidence supporting his theory if you look in the right places.
The Theory In Practice: An Island In The Sound
Last year my wife and I rented an AirBnB on Anderson Island, a quaint little island in the southern edge of Puget Sound (see map image to the right).
Our daughter and her husband (and our new Grandaughter, yay!) live near Tacoma, and we thought it would be a fun experience to live on an island while we were visiting them.
Anderson Island is a beautiful slice of paradise in the Pacific Northwest. As you drive off the ferry after the short journey across the water from the mainland, something changes.
The world seems to slow down.
The island pulls you in. You relax. You’re overcome by her Calm.
We Were Happy.
The island became a special place to us, and we’ve discussed it numerous times since our visit. I suspect you’ve visited places that are special in your life. Places where you slowed down. Places that made you happy.
We enjoyed our time on the island so much that I decided to buy a book to study the history of the island. Island In The Sound was written by Hazel Heckman, a longtime resident of Anderson Island. In reading through the history, I was struck by two quotes from the book which seem to support Einstein’s Theory Of Happiness:
“If you shift down instead of up, your gears don’t wear out so soon”
Hazel was quoting one of the old-timers on the island, who was explaining why island residents seem to live longer than average lifespans.
“There is little concern for more than enough.”
There was an alluring simplicity to the early history of Anderson Island. Folks were self-sufficient, and not concerned with material things. Relationships were important, and neighbors helped each other out. Reading through the book, it seemed clear to me that Anderson Island was a place where people were content.
Where People Were Happy.
Embrace a calm and modest life, and avoid the pursuit of things that don’t matter.
According to Einstein, it can lead to happiness.
I know it has for me.