Over the past 30 years, psychiatrists and psychologists have applied the scientific method in order to determine what makes people happy. Trying to scientifically understand the Pursuit of Happiness has resulted in numerous, widely accepted theories. For example, it’s a virtual certainty that people with strong relationships, good friends, a loving family, and solid career associations are happier. Similarly it’s well documented that people with a passion for what they do – at work or play – tend to be happier. Moreover, when an activity that someone is passionate about also serves some larger purpose like advancing the state of understanding or helping one’s community, the passion and purpose combine to supercharge contentedness. And taking the time to enjoy the simpler things in life can be as potent. People who appreciate what’s good in their lives (a good friend, a good cup of coffee, a good Miami Heat win over the Celtics tend to be happier.
The same science that provides the path to happiness also points to common pitfalls. More money to buy stuff can’t make you happy because you always adapt to the stuff. Even lottery winners do not generate much incremental happiness once they become accustomed to their new level of wealth. Though we would all like the opportunity to test and disprove this theory, that new Maserati you drive off the lot will definitely loose its luster in six months. Similarly, it’s great that personal relationships make us happy but as anyone with a BlackBerry or email knows, it takes a conscious effort to actually stop typing and have a real conversation with a spouse, friend, kid, parent, or colleague. While the concept of doing what we are passionate about sounds right, sitting down and really deciding what we are passionate about can be daunting. This is especially the case when we want that passion to translate into putting food on the table. Ultimately, the science of happiness has proven that humans poorly predict what will lead to bliss. We make the mistake of thinking the next achievement, promotion, or financial windfall will “make us happy.” But study after study confirms that because we adapt to the circumstances of our achievement, appreciating the journey creates more ongoing enjoyment.
But what does any of this have to do with online or digital advertising?
The good news for us members of the Internet/digital/online community is that, assuming we have a close friend or two (people we speak with, not just post messages to on Facebook), it’s likely we have everything we need to fill the passion portion of the happiness equation. And that leaves us to appreciate the most rapidly evolving and growing innovation platform the world has ever seen.
Since its emergence in the early 1990s, the Internet has provided a geyser of invention. The world has created more content between 2003 and today than ever before and it’s all online. Google has indexed the information enabling you to find whatever you want in 30 milliseconds. Groupon is providing discounts for all of it, and Facebook is making it easy to share finds with friends, even the ones we don’t actually talk to. Gilt lets us buy great designer goods at deep discounts. One can finish Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” on a Kindle and have Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” digitally delivered before completing an order for new shoes on Zappos. And eBay lets us have an ongoing garage sale for the stuff we accumulate but don’t need. With Twitter, we can follow many conversations at once and get news like the demise of Osama before the “Grey Lady” wakes up in the morning. Mapquest and Droid make it possible for guys to not ask directions but still not get lost. Skype lets a dad virtually say good night to his kids even if he is thousands of miles away. This digital deluge has provided unprecedented dynamic, personalizable, trackable, and effective tools worthwhile not only for communication but advertising, as well. And better still, in the immortal words of The Carpenter’s “we’ve only just begun.”
So if you are looking for a pursuable passion, a journey that will pave the way to ongoing creation, a vocation that can pay the bills, fill the soul, and connect you to a global network of inventors, artists, technologists and entrepreneurs, then put down your BlackBerry or iPhone, let go of the mouse, take a moment to breath in the wonders of the digital community and climb onboard the rocket ride of reinvention the Internet promises in the coming decades. The science says it will likely make you happy.