Happiness bootcamp: I read 10,000 studies so you don’t have to

This course includes four days of video sessions and email-based course materials. We’ll meet four days in a row, Nov. 15 – Nov. 18, at 8pm Eastern. The cost of the course is $195. 

Sign up now!

When I first started this post, I wasn’t going to launch another course. I wondered if it was OK to follow a post titled I want to die with a post about a Happiness Bootcamp? But then I realized, wait, it’s a perfect combination. Because you don’t really know how happy a person you are until you have a really, really bad day.

It’s easy to be a happy person when you are having a good day. We are all Mary Poppins after we make a big sale, or win a big race. But for me, being happy is when I’m really sad, having the tools and support system to pull myself out of it in one piece, quickly enough to not push other parts of my life to go bad.

I am not a huge fan of happiness research, by the way. I’m more the cynic of happiness. I once loved the idea that scientific data could tell us how to be happy. I would read everything I could find. But everything I could find told me to eat less, exercise more, and get married.

At that point in my life I had just had a baby, so the taking-care-of-your-body articles sent me into a frenzy, and the getting married articles didn’t mention how kids can make any marriage go sour. (Don’t get so upset. Love for children is special: research says that love makes you blind to the fact that kids are totally ruining your life.)

I kept reading the research, though. It was fascinating. One guy quantified that you’d need to make $100K more from your job to compensate relocating away from family for the money. (Family is very important to happiness.) One person said you can’t be happy in your job if you can’t control the thermostat. (There is good data for this. If  you have an opportunity in salary negotiations, definitely trade $5K for a signed agreement that you are king of the thermostat.) I couldn’t get enough data.

I combined a year’s worth of reading on positive psychology and economic development to figure out where to live. And then I moved to Madison, WI and I hated it. And what I learned is that we can get all the right answers in the world, but if they add up to something we don’t like, we will simply disregard the data.

In Madison I hit a happiness data deadend. I knew I had read enough to get a PhD in happiness when I started scouring university reading lists for happiness courses and I had already read all the material mentioned in the syllabi. So I started reading unpublished research about happiness. (INFJs have the hardest time being happy. ENFPs are very happy as long as they are not in college.)

I realized that first of all, the big stuff that makes you happy, like going to the gym every day, takes a ton of willpower. And the little stuff that makes you happy, like kissing your spouse good morning, isn’t nearly as happiness-inducing to me compared to saving up a good argument to start the day. I feel so close when we fight.

So then I did research on willpower and found that we have an infinite amount of data about what makes us happy but an infinitesimal amount of willpower to actually do it. (Did you know the part of our brain that handles willpower is the last to develop and is not highly functional?)

I tried to figure out how I rank in the world of willpower and discovered that me seeking to be respected for willpower is a path to unhappiness. We should not seek out other peoples’ respect. So instead, I started posting pictures of artists I admire, like Jan Voorman up there on top, because giving respect makes us happy.

So this course will be a sort of Cliff’s Notes to Happiness. You would have to be crazy to read all the happiness research yourself. It takes too long and also, you can’t implement it all. Really, I should just write a book, but writing a book on happiness would be the opposite of happiness to me. That’s why there’s a webinar.

I am grouping the research into the three most useful topics:

  • Jobs that make people happy.
  • Locations that make people happy.
  • Relationships that make people happy.

If you can get these three things right in your life, you will be happy. Well, those things plus sleep—go to sleep and wake up at the same time day after day after day. Which may not be easy if you are taking this webinar from very far away. But look, happiness is a game of trade-offs, and for sure this webinar will be better for you than a good night’s sleep.

Remember, the cost of the course is $195.

Sign up now! 





45 replies
  1. ellen
    ellen says:

    i’m an ENFP and i am not happy (life falls apart and i go crazy) unless i am taking college classes. this is probably because i don’t have a job i like and i don’t have a relationship either. i wish i lived by the water. and had more close friends.

    what happens when you try and fail so many times you no longer feel like trying (and failing)? i guess you just resign yourself to being unhappy? ugh.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      I also was happy in college – it was all about the relationships, and classes were another way to meet people, and another thing to connect over. It was considered acceptable (even welcome) to skip small talk and jump straight into conversations on hopes, goals, and personal philosophy. This was with other students and the instructors alike. Also, the music scene around campus was great. But maybe Pen meant that ENFPs are not happy in an ivy-league. But that said, college was expensive for all I got out of it, pragmatically. I should have spent those 4 years doing child care on a cruise line, but I didn’t know that was an actual job until after I was married (geographically tied to another human).

  2. Michael LaRocca
    Michael LaRocca says:

    What makes people change the thermostat more than twice a year? There’s no reason to have a computer sensor if you’re just going to change it manually a few times every day. Get an on/off switch and camp out beside the thing. If I could figure that one out, I bet I’d be happy.

    • Katie Clarke
      Katie Clarke says:

      I am an ENFP and college classes are my happiest place. I like being in college more than anything else! In fact, I went back to school to get a phd as a lifeline and way to engage because I was so bored with my life (being a mom to two little kids and moving all the time for my husband’s job). I’m working on my phd now, in classes, doing research, writing papers, and loving (!) it. I’m perplexed by that ENFP assessment.

  3. emily entp
    emily entp says:

    > I feel so close when we fight.

    this is why, even when it felt like my job was just to answer the phone so you could yell at me, i knew you liked me.

  4. Caitlin Timothy
    Caitlin Timothy says:

    So. Excited.

    I feel close when I fight with my husband, too. Is it an NJ thing? I think it is…

  5. yael
    yael says:

    Jobs that make people happy.
    Locations that make people happy.
    Relationships that make people happy.
    If you can get these three things right in your life, you will be happy. Well, those things plus sleep

  6. Maria
    Maria says:

    Interesting…I’m INFP, and I totally hated college. I mean, most of it. The only classes I took seriously were the ones taught by the truly eccentric professors- or where it was obvious that what they studied was their lifeblood. I have lots of W’s on my transcript.

  7. Fairchild
    Fairchild says:

    Being ENFJ (although recently I tested ENTJ for some strange reason — I must’ve been in a mood that day) but being ENFJ there’s always someone around me who needs to be listened to. Instead of attempting to give advice I have my three go-to books that I give them. I’ve probably given away about eight sets of those three books at this point.

    This would be an interesting course to take just to compare notes and see where my own research falls. Buddhists seem to have a good grasp on happiness, and ENFJ’s seem to be the happiest with work. Maybe there’s a spirituality/personality connection there.

    • suzanne
      suzanne says:

      Just curious – what are your three go-to books? I’m always looking for something good to read – pop psychology/self-help books are my guilty pleasure.

  8. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    Nothing makes me happier than a good night’s sleep. Maybe that’s because I’m over 50 and typically, somewhere between 40 and 50, you realize that your body isn’t good at feeling good anymore and that no matter how much you have gotten yourself together and into the right relationship, job, and place, you’re still not happy because your body starts needing a lot of help to feel happy. So it becomes all about the sleep, the food, the right amount and kind of exercise, figuring out which hormones are missing and replacing them. Looking back I realize that I was a lot happier in my twenties and thirties than I thought and even though I hadn’t figured anything out–because my body was happy. Now I’m trying to get my body back to happy. After a good night’s sleep(8+ hours) I wake up feeling 15 years younger, no matter what else is going on, which then imbues everything else that is going on with greater happiness.

    • Pat Sommer
      Pat Sommer says:

      I hear you sister!
      Add to ourselves, the well being of those we are responsible for: aging parents, kids, disabled friends/siblings…

      Hard to be happy when near and dear are suffering

  9. Ausser
    Ausser says:

    To the “so close when we fight” people—better check twice and think long and hard about whether your spouse shares your feelings.

    I think my wife was one of those people that used fighting as a way to get closer together. She always started fights, she tells me, when she wanted to be closer.

    Well I was not wired that way. I grew up in a happy home without fighting, where people talked about things calmly and gently and laughed a lot over disagreements, and generously compromised with others.

    She thought we were spending our years getting closer (by fighting). I thought we were spending our years growing apart. Fighting crushed me inside, and made me shut up and/or overcompromise.

    The more I tried not to fight, the more she tried to fight. Until one day I left. She felt blindsided. I was incredulous.

    “But we were so close, so in love,” she said.

    “All we did was fight,” I said.

    “But I felt so understood by you,” she said.

    “I didn’t feel like you even knew me or cared to know me,” I said.

    Yes, I’d told her that I didn’t like fighting. Many times. It was always grounds for another fight.

    Not everything feels the same way to everyone, and if you are assuming that everyone feels closer when they fight, you may wake up one day to find that your spouse did not feel the same way—and is no longer your spouse.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Amen brother!

      All of those “I like to fight, it brings us closer” comments also caught my attention but I didn’t know how to respond. You nailed it. I too ended a few relationships over similar dramas.

      I guess we are all different is one lesson. The same probably goes for happiness “techniques”. It might be a tough subject to generalize and be one of the reasons that self help books just do not work for most people. Specialization might be one approach towards happiness to think about and that probably starts with the “know thyself” mantra. One problem with that method is that it is very hard for most people to not succumb to peer and social pressures and do as the herd demands rather than follow a specialized path that might bring happiness. Just a thought…

    • Adrianne
      Adrianne says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Some people grow up in an environment where communication and conflict management is loud and disrespectful – which in and of itself is simply what it is. It becomes a problem when we start to assume the “normal” we grew up with and grew accustomed to is everyone else’s normal. It becomes an even bigger problem when when we refuse to acknowledge that other people have a different expectation of “normal”.

  10. ruo
    ruo says:

    i don’t know why people care about being happy so much as an end goal… chasing for that elusive feeling?

    people should worry more about what value they are contributing to society. what are you good for if you are a happy, and useless person?

  11. Deep Web
    Deep Web says:

    I think you are enjoying great time, I missed all these great things but next time I will read all remaining studies,, thanks for sharing your awesome experience with us.

  12. Dana Sorrell
    Dana Sorrell says:

    Do you have an update on how the people who took your blog course are doing and are you thinking of offering another blog course?

    I’ve probably read all the happiness studies. :-) I am kind of obsessed with that topic.

  13. JimWilton
    JimWilton says:

    “All the happiness there is in this world comes from thinking about others, and all the suffering comes from preoccupation with yourself.” — Shantideva

  14. USA Election 2016 Results
    USA Election 2016 Results says:

    Thank you for this page it is very helpful. I have recently been offered a job with a law firm. I am terrified that i cant pass the exams and that i am not clever enough to do it and that when i get there they will realise this and they wont keep me on and then two years studying (after a first degree) will make me old to start a new career. I dont want to do it because I am so scared of failure. I also hate still being a student and feel worthless because I dont have a proper income and am living at home. I feel like all my friends are moving on now and i am still living off my mum and dad. I feel very guilty and useless when my mum and dad go out work and i am at home studying they never say anything to make me feel like this but i do.

    • Corkie the Dog
      Corkie the Dog says:

      Dear USA Election Results,

      Fear of failure is common for successful people — there’s even a word for it, but I couldn’t come up with it just now. It’s common to fear being “found out”, in the manner you describe above. I don’t have any advice to you, but I found this information reassuring, when I first learned it.

      Take the job, take the exams, and pretend you are confident. You have nothing to lose.

  15. LeAnn
    LeAnn says:

    Someone I know who was going through a tough breakup told me “I wish I could just be happy”. It didn’t matter where she lived, what her job was, and how many other great relationships she had in her life. I told her true happiness doesn’t come from life being perfect, or having all of the “right” things, happiness comes from knowing and remembering that your life has value; even when things aren’t going well, you are important. Nature makes us more relaxed, we all need sleep and good friends, etc. etc. but you’re still putting the control on outside things. How you feel about yourself is the cornerstone.

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