The weird thing about happiness is that people don't always like to read about it, think about it, or do things that are proven to bring it.
So today, MONTAG is setting out a bold agenda which promises to revolutionise your life. We have a simple set of step-by-step instructions that, in decreasing order of scientific trustworthiness, will bring you the happiness that you deserve. Each step will increase your happiness, and none will detract from it.
Here are those steps, in full:
- Stop wasting your time trying to achieve so much
- Slack off at work and/or work much less
- Find a really, really, really niche interest and follow it down the rabbit hole.
You may feel an instinctive snort of ridicule tickling the back of your nose. Choke it down and read on. Happiness awaits 👉
One: Stop wasting your time trying to achieve so much
The recent American Time Use Survey - which revealed that those earning over $100K are no happier than those with incomes of $25K. Surprise! The “success” that came with an increased salary did not increase the recipients’ happiness.
The Legatum Institute - an “independent non-partisan public policy organisation” is founded “upon the principle that prosperity is a more capacious idea than can be expressed by a purely material measure such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” They published a hefty research and policy document on Wellbeing, in which, they discovered something fascinating.
It was this: while CEOs were best-paid, they were no happier than their secretaries. It turns out that the act of striving to succeed is Happiness Kryptonite: trying to make lots of success or money happen does not make you happier.
Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, also studied the American Time Use Survey and observed that the happiest and most fulfilled people work between 21 and 30 hours per week.
He also noted that, from the 31 hour-per-week mark upwards, misery increases hand-in-hand with each extra hour.
There are 9000 financial workers in financial hubs like London and Hong Kong who work over 100 hours per week: how happy can they possibly be? What are they feeling as a reward for working those 69 extra hours per week?
What has dragged them out of the happiness sweetspot and plonked them back at their desk? Could it be... something other than happiness? But what is there?
Two: Slack off at work and/or work much less
If you have experienced that dull feeling that work in 2019 is filled with bullshit tasks that are utterly pointless, and that really we should only be working four days a week nowadays, you’d be absolutely correct.
André Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, says that “coasting at work is the best thing for your career, health and happiness.” In other words, pushing yourself as hard as possible at work has the opposite effect to your aim: you become less happy, less successful and, as a final kicker, you get ill, too. Larks!
(If you’re still not sure about this one, try asking people around the water cooler if making three-day weekends normal would make them any happier.)
Research at the University of British Columbia showed that society is split into two fairly even halves: people who value time more than money, and people who value money over time, and their preference leaked into all of their decision making in life.
But the people who valued extra free time to do what they wanted over having extra money were happier, because - and you’ll have to temper your expectations of any staggering breakthroughs here - in that extra time, these people did things that they enjoyed doing, like, well anything. Watching TV, gardening, doing spurious hobbies: all these are better at bringing happiness than - again, bear with me here - doing more work.
And to access secret bonus levels of happiness, all you have to do is make the activities in that time meaningful. Project lead researcher Ashley Whillans said, “Even giving up a few hours of a paycheck to volunteer at a food bank may have more bang for your buck in making you feel happier.”
Three: Find a really, really, really niche interest and follow it right down the rabbit hole.
You don’t have to righteously donate your time to good causes to reap the benefits: if you’ve overworked for years, it’s *you* who is the charity case, stupid.
So treat yourself to some indulgent, focussed, me-time. And the more niche, the better it is for - well, maybe not your happiness, but your overall wellbeing.
Carol A. Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, says that there’s a fine line between a beneficial hobby that serves as a distraction from work, and a damaging obsession that compulsively eats up your time. But finding a hobby that really, truly scratches your personal itch and that provides a space to get lost in is overwhelmingly good for your soul.
So what to pick? MONTAG dug deep and found some examples of people who are truly Living Their Best Life through utterly, utterly niche hobbies. Why not see if one will suit you?
Extreme Washing Machine Interest
It’s safe to say that the nameless owner of the Washercrazy Youtube channel loves washing machines and washing machine accessories.
Whether he’s reviewing washing machines in his local store, filming and commentating on entire wash cycles at a series of laundrettes, or posting unboxing videos of spin-dryers bought for him as a gift by his mum, his interest is true and pure and has staggering depth: he’s uploaded over 1000 videos of washing machines so far.
Our nameless washing machine hero is - in all seriousness - setting an example to us all, freeing himself from the restraints of embarrassment and openly embracing his enjoyment with unfettered glee.
Just watch the palpable excitement in “At the laundrette part 2”, where he reacts with deep satisfaction as the ageing machine segues into a spin cycle that nearly rattles his bottle of fabric softener into a new dimension - and tell me that you don’t envy the waves of happiness that are washing over him.
What is the root of this very niche hobby? It’s not clear - but who cares? Here’s a man who lives and breathes washing machines and takes deep enjoyment from every aspect of it.
MONTAG wishes him, and his new machine, a Samsung EcoBubble WF5E2-W4WEU, many years of happiness from his hobby.
The Comprehensive Plastic Chair Hobbyist
Bryan Ropar's Plastic Chair World is a Youtube channel of devastating simplicity: it’s a channel where a man called Bryan documents the topic that he finds most interesting: plastic chairs.
Watch him count down the top 100 plastic chairs in his collection and *feel* the calm, the deep satisfaction and the confidence he exudes as Bryan simply lists the various chairs in the order he feels best expresses his preference.
And while MONTAG feels that #55 - the ProGarden S-I-T chair - should have ranked much higher, who are we to argue?
Bryan has found his niche, and is a clear expert: he’s owned between 600-800 plastic chairs in his life, cares about their history and design and has uploaded over 100 videos about plastic chairs, including one slightly mournful one entitled, “Watching The Chair Get Thrown Away.”
Once more, Bryan’s hobby needs no explanation, and neither should yours. Feel no fear if your true fascination lies in injection-moulded furniture, for your happiness lies within easy reach, and it’s stackable for easy storage in your garage.
真ん中小五郎 - Documenting Skateboarding Pugs
Gonta the Pug likes riding skateboards whilst dressed in natty clothing. And Gonta’s owner likes videoing this and uploading it to Youtube, hundreds of times. Here’s Gonta in a colourful onesie. Here’s Gonta wearing light-up Hallowe’en pumpkins. Here’s Gonta wearing a hat with leaves sticking out of it.
What does each additional video say? What does it bring to the conversation? These questions are starting from the wrong point: what does each additional video *not* bring to the life of Gonta’s owner? Gonta, her vast wardrobe and her ability to ride a skateboard are all that is needed for her owner to find happiness: your thoughts are, correctly, meaningless.
A channel of hundreds of videos where the uploader indulges his innate ability to communicate his analysis of the haptic sensation of various tech device knobs without the use of words contains so many lessons for us all on the topic of Following Your Passion To Its Logical Conclusion that we don’t know how to put it into words.
The French Elevator Channel
OK, by now, you know the drill: this is a channel filled with hundreds of videos of elevators. And it’s French, so it’s sophisticated and a tiny bit snobbish.
Before you roll your eyes and assume that this channel is some sort of post-ironic meme, cast an eye over the data that accompanies his review of a “RARE Schindler Smart 002 MRL elevator” found in the small town of Vienne:
This is very rare in France ! And, of course, it has the classic Smart amazing and loud motor !
-------------- Technical Informations --------------
* Brand : Schindler
* Model : Smart 002
* Type : MRL traction
* Capacity : 630 Kg (~1400 lbs) / 8 Persons
* Installed in 2006
* Floors served : 4 ( *0*, 1, 2, 3 )
* Serial number : 0010140108
* Speed : 1 m/s
* Travel distance : 8 meters
Here, truly, is a man who loves his elevators and is living his fullest life.
Live slow, die old
So what have we learned? Don’t strive so hard you make yourself ill, and work fewer hours so that you have more time to enjoy life. And that enjoyment, ideally, will come spending free time in a nourishing, indulgent passion.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you reach that sweetest of sweet spots in the niche-est of niches, the world will not begin to understand why what you’re doing makes you so happy.
And that’s the point: if your hobby doesn’t even slightly expose you to the chance of ridicule, are you really doing the thing that’s truly *you*? If you’re not already doing something weird in an attempt to make yourself happy, what are you even working *for*?