The culmination of my four-year obsession with happiness research is that I think people need to choose between an interesting life or happy life. (Note: This does not mean you are interesting or not interesting. I am talking about what values guide your decision making.) I think the things that make life happy have to do with complacency, and the things that make life interesting have to do with lack of complacency. If you want to read more about this, search on my sidebar “happiness” and “interesting” and you’ll get a bazillion posts because I’ve been obsessed with the topic.

I have discovered that I would rather be interesting than happy. The good news is that even though I'm punting on the quest for happiness, I do have a good sense of how to know if you should be seeking happiness yourself, or if your quest for interesting makes happiness a lost cause.

Here's the test:

1. Did you relocate away from family for a better job or another more interesting experience? Minus one

You would have to earn $150,000 more from a job if you were doing it far away from family, according to economist Nattavudh Powdthavee of University of York.

2. Did you relocate to be near family? Plus one

Happiness does not come from a job, or from being revered by your peers. It comes from personal relationships.

3. Are you nationally recognized as being great at doing something or do you have nationally-recognized expert knowledge in something? Or are you reorganizing your life in order to achieve this end? Minus one

Interesting people raise the bar on themselves. They are singularly focused because they recognize that in order to be great, you need to be focused. They will sacrifice other things in life for this obsession.

4. Were you a happy child? Plus one

Sixty percent of our ability to be happy is predetermined by our genes.

5. Do your friends pray? Plus one

People who pray are happier than people who do not pray, probably because having faith is fundamentally optimistic. (You can be any religion, and pray for anything.) Happiness is contagious, and we are more likely to be happy if our friends are happy.

6. Do you need your kids to go to a school that is recognized as excellent in national rankings? Minus one.

People who need the best of everything — maximizers — are not happy people.

7. Do you have fat friends? Plus one

Fat people are not generally maximizers. And if your friends are not maximizers than you probably aren't either.

8. Do you have an opinion on Picasso? Minus one

People who focus on interesting are quicker to form opinions on subjective topics.

9. Do you have three friends who are a Jew, a Muslim and a born-again Christian? Minus one

Diversity is interesting, but in small groups (like friends) it does not make for happiness, according to Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect.

10. Are you a Republican? Plus one

Republicans are happier than democrats. This dichotomy is based a lot on personality. Republicans tend to have personality traits that are uncomfortable with change, whereas people who lean democrat tend to have personality traits of change agents, according to personality research from Xyte.

11. Do you think Christmas is a national holiday? Plus one

Christmas is not a national holiday, because the US is not a Christian country. But regardless of what’s true, homogenous thinking breeds happiness. It's why countries like Sweden and Finland are so happy. They are homogenous.

12. Have you been to a therapist? Minus one

Peopel who are interesting but not happy have a point where they need to make sure they are okay. Also, they are interested in finding out about themselves even if they are fine. The ratio of therapists to citizens is lowest in populations that skew to maximizers (like New York City and San Francisco).

13. Do you know the difference between $70 eyebrows and $20 eyebrows? Minus one

It doesn’t matter if you spend that much for eyebrows. But if you know why people who must have good eyebrows cannot take chances, and why most people have terrible eyebrows, then you took the time to find out enough about eyebrows to know what is best and how yours could be better.

14. Can you tell the difference between real diamonds and fake diamonds. Plus one

Trick question. A maximizer will have tried to learn to figure it out and will have learned that even experts can't without a special tool.

15. Have you tried on a pair of $200 jeans? Minus one

If you are not interested in seeing what they look like on you, you probably just want to be happy with how you are. People who are interested in new experiences are less likely to be happy, according to Psychology Today.

16. Do you think this test is BS? Plus one

People with interesting lives do not get offended that they cannot be happy. Happy people are offended that they cannot have interesting lives.


-8 to -3 You have a desire for interestingness over happiness

3 to 8 You have a desire for happiness over interestingness.

-2 to 2 You are suspiciously well balanced. Or lacking a self-identity. I’m not sure which.