Why You Should Ask Why

Gretchen Rubin wrote a book on forming habits called Better Than Before.

There are a few other good books on habits (I recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), but Rubin’s big innovation was identifying different personality types. Some habit-building techniques work for some people, but there are very few universal approaches that work for everyone. Rubin divides her readers into four groups and then provides tips specific to each group.

Under Rubin’s framework, I am a Questioner.

“Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, ‘What needs to get done today, and why?’ They decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack sound purpose.”

Beyond habit-building, this is a pretty good view into my permanent mindset. I ask “Why?” about pretty much everything, and if the answer is any variation of “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” then I’m out.

Continue reading “Why You Should Ask Why”

Is It Worth It? (Why I Save So Much, Part 4)

Over the last couple weeks I’ve run through a lot of my philosophy behind saving and investing. I discussed that I invest at least as much as I spend every month because I want to buy options for my life, because I see the value of labor declining over time, and because I don’t want to need to start a new career path if mine gets automated out of existence.

The big question for most people at this point is: “Is it worth it?” Continue reading “Is It Worth It? (Why I Save So Much, Part 4)”

Happiness Causes Success

Last week Cait Flanders wrote about how some people treated happiness as a general vibe that they exude and others pursued happiness as a destination. Thinking about this idea started me on a path that had me digging back through my notes on happiness research.

Our culture tends to treat happiness as a destination. Happiness is a goal for which you strive. And of course, the most surefire way to reach happiness is to be successful.

If we stop and think about this premise though, it falls apart. If success causes happiness, then we should be able to see the results. Continue reading “Happiness Causes Success”

How to Buy Happiness

I apologize in advance for the inherent humblebraginess of vacation pictures. I did warn you, though.

I am generally a pretty frugal person. Three of my last four posts have been about saving money. I’ve written about cognitive biases that get in the way of saving money. I’ve written about the best way to hit savings goals.

And yet, I just spent a whole bunch of money on a three-week vacation to South Africa and Spain. This came thirteen months after a trip to Peru. Which itself came eight months after a honeymoon in the Bahamas (which, to be fair, was paid for with hotel points).

The sun setting over the Atlantic from Cape Town

This may seem out of character or incongruent with my savings focus. But I don’t save money for the sake of saving money. I don’t intend to be the richest man in the cemetery. And while I would love to reach financial independence, I am not aiming to get there as soon as possible by any means necessary. Instead, I want to live my best (and happiest) life with as little waste as possible. Continue reading “How to Buy Happiness”

The Ancient Art of Being Thankful for What We Have

In looking into ways of dealing with disappointment we explored the Stoic practice of imagining the things that could go wrong in our lives. This is a great tool for helping us blunt the painful feeling of disappointment that accompanies loss.

However, this is not the only benefit to this practice.

Continue reading “The Ancient Art of Being Thankful for What We Have”

Hedonic Adaptation is Making You Poor and Unhappy

Hedonic adaptation is the human ability to get used to pretty much any situation. This can be great when bad things happen to us.

One study measured the happiness of people with end-stage kidney disease against the happiness of healthy people. The kidney patients had to spend nine hours per week going through hemodialysis and stick to a strict diet. Both the kidney patients and the healthy controls felt that the healthy people would be significantly happier.

But they weren’t. Despite everything that the patients had to go through, they were just as happy as their healthy counterparts. They had quickly adjusted to their new situation and had adapted to it.

This is a really powerful ability! We can be happy regardless of what we are going through!

The problem is that hedonic adaptation also applies to positive situations. Continue reading “Hedonic Adaptation is Making You Poor and Unhappy”