Happiness is the opposite of sadness. Extreme sadness is depression. It’s that simple, despite modern society’s attempts to fragment it. Everyone can be plotted somewhere on this “happiness spectrum.” What it takes to achieve happiness is relative to a person’s expectations. In other words, how happy you are depends on what you think you deserve. If you got less than you expected, you will be sad. If you got what you expected, you will be content. If you got more than you expected, you will be happy. Happiness = reality – expectations, as they say. It’s absolutely true; it’s just hard to determine just what constitutes the variables “reality” and “expectations” in everyday life.

How much does a person think they deserve? This is mainly based on the amount of work a person does (i.e. quantity), and the value of that work (i.e. quality). For example, if a man works a lot, and his work is valuable, he expects a lot of money in return. He would be happy if he’s paid more than his high expectations. He would be sad if he’s paid less than his high expectations. This is how being rich does not necessarily equal happiness. On the other end, a poor person is not necessarily sad. For example, a man may never work and thus have zero expectations for any amount of returns. He may somehow receive money—often from the generosity of others. He deserved and expected nothing yet received something. That’s happiness. Are you living life correctly?

How much a person thinks they deserve is also based on what he or she knows about the work ethics and salary of others. For example, a man is earning $10 day for 10 hours of work at his local factory. He could be loving it—thinking this is such good pay for such an easy job. If one day he realizes his co-worker is receiving $20 a day for the same work, he would be livid. This also happens at a larger scale. Say everyone at that factory is earning $10 a day. They all love it, and think they’re getting a steal of a deal. One day they receive news that their neighboring country has the same factory work but giving their employees $100 a day. Happiness ruined, forever. Thus, expectations—part of the happiness equation—are relative. Happiness itself, however, is absolute and can and should be measured and compared. The happiness of a country’s population is more telling than any other statistic, like GDP. Happiness is the ultimate measure of success.

The average mentally-handicapped person is happier than the average person, which has led people to believe that ignorance is bliss. Sorry to be blunt, but in the wild, a mentally-handicapped person would be unhappy as he or she struggles to survive. However, in today’s modern society, mentally-handicapped people do not work long and hard hours, and yet they are cared for more than the average person, whether it’s from a random stranger on the street, government aid, family, etc. Thus, most mentally-handicapped people receive more than they expect—that’s happiness. So what makes a mentally-handicapped person happy is not the lack of intelligence but rather society’s generosity.

So does money buy happiness? It depends on whether the money came from hard work or was just gifted. Undeserved money—from winning the lottery, for example—would definitely bring happiness. Hard-earned money may bring happiness, contentment, or even sadness, as illustrated above. Studies have found that there is no correlation between high income and happiness. They concluded that money does not buy happiness. What these studies fail to consider, though, is that high income comes easily for some people and through hard work for others. The former leading to happiness and the latter leading to sadness.

There’s also the other end of the transaction: the people paying for the man’s goods or services. Here, happiness still comes from getting more than expected, and sadness from getting less than expected. It doesn’t matter what we are paying for; it can be amazing, state-of-the-art technology like in-flight Wi-Fi beamed to your chair in the sky (Louis C.K.). We expect it to work as advertised, and we’re unhappy if it doesn’t. There’s more to overall happiness than material goods and services, though. There’s friends and family, which money can’t really buy. But the happiness equation, “reality – expectations,” still works the same way. If you’re nice to a person, you expect that person to be nice to you. If that person is rude or doesn’t return the favor, you’ll be sad.  If that person exceeds your expectations, you’ll be happy.

The Golden Rule says  to “treat others as you would like others to treat you.” This is a good rule of thumb to live by, but an inconsistency to it arises when it comes to human attraction. Oftentimes, when a man loves a woman but doesn’t know what to do, he’ll pay a lot of attention to the woman: he’ll make her his world, treat her like a princess, follow her lead, obey her orders, let her make decisions, etc. He’s just following The Golden Rule, and expecting his gallant behavior to be reciprocated—it worked with everything else in life! The problem is that this is unattractive behavior to women. He’s “smothering her,” being a pushover, or a “nice guy”. The result is very sad, unrequited love. Isn’t it interesting, though, that this Golden Rule inconsistency only happens one way? If a woman pampers a man, he wouldn’t see her as unattractive.

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