The Pursuit of [too much] Happiness?

CNN Money recently posted an article that I found to be fairly interesting.  The studies (and debate) over achieving happiness seem to continue, but there’s some new evidence covered in the article, Want to be rich? Don’t get too happy.  The idea is that, while humans tend to want to achieve the “ultimate” level satisfaction with life, that’s not necessarily a good goal.  From the article:

Why is it better to be happy but not euphoric? Diener’s take is that happy – but not too happy – people are strivers. They’re interested in making the sorts of changes necessary to get ahead in life, including engaging in competition (not always a happy pursuit), obtaining more education and changing their behavior when what they’re doing now isn’t working. The 10s, on the other hand, are too complacent to adjust enough.

“When you compare moderate optimists with extreme ones, one of the biggest areas of difference is in self-control,” says David Robinson, a lead researcher on the Duke study. The extreme optimists overspent. They accumulated debt. They didn’t save. They were more likely to be day-traders. On the other hand, moderate optimists, recognizing the possibility of a run of bad luck, saved more than extreme optimists did.

To me, it sounds like this research sheds some light on the unbridled greed we tend to see in the United States.  The Bush Administration is probably the prime example, with the manufacturing of war and the selling of our nation to private interests and foreign powers.  We also have a long history of abuses, of which Enron certainly must be included.  Most of the people responsible for these transgressions are rich (ridiculously rich, if there ever were such a thing).  Yet, they seem all too ready to compromise their morality (not to mention laws) to get more money and power.  If only we would all get off of the happiness “treadmill” and settle for less-than-perfect…


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