We all have to make decisions about how to spend our time, energy, and money. To get the most happiness bang for the buck, ask yourself, “Will this decision make me happier?”
Here are some questions to consider:
- Is this decision likely to strengthen your relationships with other people? Strong relationships with other people are a key—perhaps the key—to happiness, so decisions that help you to deepen or widen ties are likely to boost your happiness.
- Will this decision provide you with novelty and challenge? Novelty and challenge can make us happier—we’re happier when we live in an atmosphere of growth.
- What is the opportunity cost of this decision? (“Opportunity cost” describes the fact that doing one thing means foregoing alternatives.) Energy, time, and money are limited. Even if a decision would bring happiness, if it means that you have to give up the opportunity to do many other happiness-boosting activities, it may not be worth it.
- Does this decision reflect your temperament, interests, and values? Are you making this decision based on self-knowledge and what will truly make you happy, or because you want to impress other people, or deny a truth about yourself?
- When you consider a particular course of action, do you feel energized or drained?
- How happy are the people who have made that particular decision? In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, he argues that one of the most effective ways to judge whether a particular course of action will make you happy in the future is to ask people who are following that course of action right now if they’re happy, and assume that you’ll feel the same way. In evaluating the likely consequences of a decision, other people’s experiences of happiness—or lack thereof—can be very instructive.
- Remind yourself to “Choose the bigger life,” whatever that means for you.
This list might help answer questions such as:
- Should I join Facebook?
- Should I buy a tent?
- Should I throw a Labor Day party?
- Should I get a dog?
- Should I sign up for Spanish lessons?
There’s no right answer or wrong answer—only the right answer for you. If you need more help deciding where to invest your time, energy, and money to build happiness, consider these methods for organizing your Happiness Project.