Reboot9 — Alexander Kjerulf: Happiness [en]

Here are my notes, unedited and possibly misleading, blah blah blah, of the Reboot9 conference.

Happiness (reboot talk page)

To be human is to be happier. No species has such a capacity to be happy (and unhappy!) as humans.

Has been helping make people happier at work.

Chief Happiness Officer

The Chief Happiness Officer

What is happiness? Let’s ask Google.

Happiness is the most important thing in life. 50% genetic (cf. twin studies). We have control over the other half. Pick something you really want. Ask “why?” a few times, and you’ll end up with “because that makes me happy”.

This proves we are here to be happy. Everything we want is because in some way, it will make us happy. Happiness is the most basic “why”.

Happy people:

  • have more friends
  • are healthier (better immune system)
  • live longer
  • suffer fewer depressions
  • are more successful.

Happiness is really easy. Epicurus: all you need to be happy is easy to get. Friendship, contemplation…

Martin Seligman: Happiness can be learned. Founder of positive psychology.

Happiness is…

  • not eternal (there will be bad days)
  • your responsibility
  • your choice (happiness does not depend on what happens to us… completely — it’s more about how we react to what happens to us, and what we choose to do about it)

Myths about happiness:

  • happy people are selfish — not so, happy people care more about others
  • happy people are complacent — nope, it feels good to do good
  • happiness is the absence of problems — nope, happy people in the world are not those who have no problems; Epicurus “The wise man is still happy amidst his torments”.

What makes us happy?

  1. Friends, family and marriage — Love, actually.
  2. Meaningful, enjoyable work
  3. Living a good life, according to values that make sense to you.

Biggest threats to happiness:

  • TV
  • consumerism

These are links, because TV drives a lot of the consumerism. Introduction of TV in Bhutan in the 90s. Life satisfaction fell, suicide and depression rates climbed, clothing changed to what teenagers wear in the US. The news is not good on TV.

Guess where we spend most of our time: in front of TV and in the jobs that give us the money to support the consumerism.

  1. sleep
  2. work
  3. TV

And TV is starting to overtake work. steph-note: don’t watch TV! throw it out! haven’t watched mine in 6 months, and much happier 🙂.

Scary thing: average British working parent spends 19 minutes per day with kids.

We tend to not know what makes us happy. “I’ll be happy when…” We are goalaholics. Book: Goal-Free Living. Start by being happy, instead of “being happy when”.

The dangers of seeking happiness: two major things can go wrong.

  1. Emptiness

Nothing to strive for, suddenly life is all too easy. If I’m not happy there must be something wrong with me. One area of research has really been revolutionized by happiness: economics. They should run Britain based on making the British has happy as possible, rather than growth. In Bhutan: growth of national happiness. Denmark: happiest country on earth. There is a correlation between GNP and happiness, but… USA/Puerto Rico: same happiness, different GNP.

  1. Subversiveness

Happy people are the greatest danger to some of the structures that are holding us back. If you’re really happy, you don’t give a sht. You don’t fall for scare politics. *steph-note: yes! yes! You don’t fall for consumerism either (“you’ll be happier if you drive this SUV”). You don’t fall for the corporate crap either, or the self-help, the cults and the gurus, religion…

Simple things you can do to be happier:

  • gratitude visit
  • write down three good things about your day today
  • throw out your TV

Less simple things:

  • put happiness first in your life (career and consumerism second!)
  • know yourself (what makes you happy/unhappy?)
  • base your work on happiness


  1. we’re here to be happy
  2. happiness is easy
  3. we tend not to know what makes us happy
  4. happiness is subversive and that’s how we’re going to change the world.