New Year’s Resolution: Happiness?

Over the holidays, I arrived at my brother-in-law’s house to witness a truly massive pile of presents waiting under the Christmas tree for all of us to open. Once the wrapping paper was off and the gifts were in hand, I wondered whether the expense we had all gone to was merited by the enjoyment we would receive from the abundance of consumer goods. Was the toil and hard work worthy of the gifts we had in front of us?

The most recent issue of The Economist explores the concept of happiness and how it can be empirically measured. The article mentions John Maynard Keynes, famed macroeconomist, who “imagined that richer societies would become more leisured ones, liberated from toil to enjoy the finer things in life.” But Keynes found that in richer societies, people continued to work very hard. “They work hard to afford things they think will make them happy, only to discover the fruits of their labour sour quickly. They also aspire to a higher place in society’s pecking order, but in so doing force others in the rat race to run faster to keep up. So everyone loses.”

As the new year begins, many lawyers find themselves wondering how they can enrich their lives. Taking stock of activities that enhance your life and identifying activities with a deleterious effect can be a useful exercise.

Do you have a beautiful home, but spend an hour of your day commuting to its suburban location? Do you spend your lunch hour eating heavy meals instead of improving your health by joining the gym next door to your office? Could you possibly work “smarter” instead of longer, and give yourself a chance to go one of your son’s baseball games? Are you staying in your high-paying job in order to afford the luxury car and the expensive house, but at the cost of your health and happiness? Come to think of it, there is a 6 o’clock yoga class today. I think I will go.

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