I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the past 4 years, and I’ve had some incredible experiences along the way. Lately, I’ve been struggling with what to do next. Or perhaps more accurately, I’ve been struggling with how to decide what to do next. Decisions that seem obvious in hindsight are tough to come to grips with beforehand, and it’s led me to think about what metric I am trying to maximize. I admit that it’s odd to think of life as a way to increase certain metrics, but aren’t we doing this already in a different way? A lot of people (myself included) will at some point say that all we care about is money. Isn’t that just us saying that money is the metric we want to maximize? Now that I am older and wiser (yeah, right), I find myself increasingly concerned with maximizing my own happiness.
Happiness is this strange concept that nobody quite understands, nobody quite wants to admit to not having, and isn’t always consistent (do we care about moment-to-moment happiness, or long-term happiness?). I think Wikipedia says it best with “happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean different things to different people.” Great. Thanks, Wikipedia. The more I read about happiness research, the more I realized that in order to truly understand what makes me happy, I would have to start capturing information about it. This has led me to develop an Android application called Happsee that can be used to track and visualize happiness. The results have been fantastic so far, and I will be sharing them in a later post. This post, though, is about looking at happiness on a higher level.
In the course of creating Happsee, I met/have been meeting with a lot of people in the Boston area who are doing interesting things in the field. One of these people is Daniel Hadley, the head of SomerStat, a very cool department of the city of Somerville that tries to quantify various aspects of life in the city and make them better. One of these aspects is happiness, and SomerStat has compiled data on happiness in Somerville going back to 2006. I tried not to let my eyes get too wide when Daniel told me about this data (normal people like normal things — I like data). He was gracious enough to share the anonymized data with me, and I will be looking at it in this post in order to see if it can help us better understand happiness.