Decoding Happiness

May 17, 2023

This week in Ryan’s Weekly Wave: Americans turn the corner on pandemic loneliness, happiness is possible if it comes from the right places, and an NBA star talks about failure.

Everyone wants to be happy but life often gets in the way.

Read more about this in the Deep Dive Section below.

In the News

Knowledge Drop: An alarming dip in 8th grade test scores strongly suggests that the pandemic took its toll on K-12 learning. (Quartz)

A Secret to Happiness: America’s happiest people have a secret. (Wall Street Journal) They value community, close personal relationships, and God. They also tend to be older.

  • A 56% majority say they are “pretty happy.”
  • Marriage appears to be the strongest predictor of happiness. 67% of those who say they are “very happy” also say that marriage is “very important” to them.

It is often said that “money cannot buy happiness” but being broke can buy misery. Also, financial stability appears to be a reliable gateway to happiness.

Pandemic-Era Loneliness:

Trends for Happiness-Seeking Google Search Inquiries (US)

*Source: Google Trends

The Dunning-Kruger Theory is Called Into Question: For years, it has been widely believed that people who know the least tend to overestimate their abilities and those who know the most tend to underestimate. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. New analysis suggests that this theorem could be overstated, misleading, or even wrong. (Fortune)

Other News

Do companies need to double and triple down on driving employee engagement? (HR Executive)

How companies should address workplace romances. (HR Morning)

A Deeper Dive: Happiness and Loneliness

Depending on who you are, happiness will be found in different ways. What makes one person happy might not do the same for another. 

What is Happiness?

The term happiness is defined as either “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” (Oxford Dictionary) By this definition, happiness can easily get conflated with joy, optimism, pleasure, laughter, and other fleeting emotions.

Happiness comes from positive relationships.

The way most people talk about happiness involves a desire for something more enduring. When someone says, “I just want to be happy,” they do not mean that they want to laugh for a minute before going back into their state of misery. They want something everlasting.


Loneliness was in the news recently. (CNN) In early May, 2023, the US Surgeon General declared loneliness to be an “epidemic.”

The US Surgeon General certainly does not have the answers because the problem exists within each of our own individual minds. Looking to Dr. Murthy to solve our loneliness would be a fool’s errand. 

He does however make some instructive points. (Press Release – Dept. of HHS) For one thing, a lack of social connection increases the risk of premature death by 60%. Additionally, other physical conditions such as tobacco use, obesity, and substance abuse play a role in the collective rates of social isolation.

Happiness Decoded 

To recap, loneliness and happiness can both be temporary feelings. One is positive and one is negative. Activities that bring pleasure or short-term bursts of joy such as traveling, or doing whatever you want in the moment are sometimes necessary, but they will not bring long-term happiness. The trick is to find sources of happiness that do not expire.

As the Wall Street Journal’s survey on happiness indicates, social relationships, family, religion, and marriage are some of the most reliable forces that drive happiness. Fortunately recent indications point to decreasing loneliness in the post-pandemic world, including this survey. (Gallup)

The formation of positive habits is non-negotiable. Developing a habit of self-care and a positive mental attitude will almost certainly lead to more of a permanent, underlying state of happiness. 

What I’m Reading

The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy – Todd Kashdan

  • This book promotes the idea of defying existing rules in certain cases. It describes many social and political movements through the lens of courage. 

What I’m Listening To

Interpreting Failure The Growth Equation Podcast

  • Recently the number 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks were ousted from the NBA playoffs in the first round by the 8th seeded Miami Heat. This has happened only 5 times since 1984. (Sports Illustrated) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee’s best player was asked if the season was a failure.

His answer contains some important lessons about how we think about our own failures.

Quote of the Week

“ Not having the best situation, but seeing the best in your situation is the key to happiness.” 

Marie Forleo

Articles of the Week

Are your dreams unrealistic? (Karine Schomer – Via

How does ‘forever feel?’ Well, it doesn’t really exist. (The Minimalists)

Reframe: Is quitting giving up or simply moving on? (Tiny Buddha)

From Deep Dive Careers: Quietly Quitting is Neither Quiet nor Quitting

  • Quiet Quitters: Where are they now? Probably still on TikTok.

Other Fun Stuff

Here is a fascinating exposé on how flat global maps distort the size of countries and continents. (Uncharted Territories – Substack)

Eurovision is in full swing. Here is a breakdown on what this event is for Americans with little to no clue. (USA Today)

Dad Joke of the Week

Dada says: 

“Dad, I made a frozen pizza for dinner.” – Kiddo

“Well… Next time, you should COOK it.”

*This post may contain affiliate links. These help financially support the Deep Dive Careers platform.

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