The Pursuit of Happiness

What Makes Us Happy? by Joshua Wolf Shenk
The Atlantic, June 2009

"How's this for the good life? You're rich, and you made the dough yourself. You're well into your 80s, and have spent hardly a day in the hospital. Your wife had a cancer scare, but she's recovered and by your side, just as she's been for more than 60 years. Asked to rate the marriage on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is perfectly miserable and 9 is perfectly happy, you circle the highest number. You've got two good kids, grandkids too. A survey asks you: 'If you had your life to live over again, what problem, if any, would you have sought help for and to whom would you have gone?' 'Probably I am fooling myself,'; you write,'but I don't think I would want to change anything.' If only we could take what you've done, reduce it to a set of rules, and apply it systematically."

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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