Your Happiness Area Code

There are three measures of success. If you follow them, you should have everything you want.

The first of the three is direction. If you don’t know what your end goal is, no amount of grit or dedication will get you there. There is some guesswork involved in all of our lives, but if we don’t know where we’re heading, it’s kind of inevitable that we’ll end up letting ourselves drift on the ocean of whatever comes our way.

The opposite of direction is coasting. When you’re coasting, you’re just letting life happen to you instead of finding out what you want to do. It’s the lazy thing to do, and if you follow this path, it’s likely you’ll end up somewhat satisfied from life but still thinking that you’ve squandered some potential… and you’ll be right.

The second is the ability to delay gratification. Many studies have shown that children who are able to do this will end up more successful than their peers, but alone, this factor will cause you to jump through other people’s hoops, which is why many people end up getting an MBA instead of just starting their own businesses and reading Crossing the Chasm.

The opposite of delaying gratification is listening to your present self. If you focus on this, you’ll avoid pain and never get past your personal barriers. You’ll trust your lizard brain. You’ll only work on short-term projects because your ability to focus on the long-term is dependent only on the fire in your belly. You’ll be a hungry ghost.

The third is maybe most important of all, and that is understanding happiness itself. If we skip understanding what makes us happy (reading about it, etc.), we’ll just take other people’s words for it and follow their way even though it may not work for us (for example, trusting people when they say “kids changed my life” despite the studies). Understanding what is likely to make us happy (for example, experiences instead of possessions) is like a roadmap, without which we’ll end up following the same path, and living the same life as everyone else.

If you look at this list, it should be immediately obvious what you have and what you’re lacking. On a scale of 1-10, I would categorize myself as a 468. This will improve over time I think, but that’s my snapshot for today.

I call this my Happiness Area Code. What’s yours? This test should make it obvious what you need to improve. Do 5 minutes to improve that today, and tell me how you did it in the comments below.






16 responses to “Your Happiness Area Code”

  1. Diane Begin Avatar

    729 – Delaying gratification is difficult when you have the means.

  2. Sandy Avatar

    I love how you presented the ideas & with numbers it makes it that much more tangible. I would put myself at a 377 right now.

  3. John McLachlan Avatar

    The middle number has always been my weak spot, but I’m pretty happy and to, that’s way more important!

  4. Black dog Avatar
    Black dog

    Are you measuring success as a person? I think the measure of your Happiness is your measure of success, not the measure of your status or your money or your ability to *do* anything. To die happy would be my measure of success – even if I die alone. Because actually that is something we all do alone so people who aren’t Happy are the ones who end up Hungry Ghosts.
    Your first two may be subsets of Happiness.

  5. Brian Avatar

    Thanks for the insight. 755

  6. Jodi Henderson Avatar

    Oh man, this is a great way to break things down and look/think about them. I think I’m probably in happiness area code 523 right now. I’m trying to work on #2 these days, but I agree with Diane that it’s hard when you have the means. #3 is elusive a lot of the time for me; I’m working on figuring it out though.

  7. Michael Bigger Avatar

    Ooops. I made a mistake. I inverted. I am a 713. Like Diane, I have a tough time delaying gratification because I have the means. It is nice to have the means, but it is not has much fun has working on getting to be in that position.

    About Happiness, well I am the most happy when I create stuff. I find that really exciting but I am far from understanding the drivers of that. I just finished reading Tony Hsieh “Delivering Happiness”. That will help after I do second reading of the last few sections of the book related to the science of happiness. Gotta work more on that.

    Thanks Julien for a great post.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Michael, try Stumbling on Happiness also, good stuff in there.

  8. Eric Avatar

    Possibly a 334? Lots of work to do.

  9. Lauren Avatar

    Kind of love this method. 869.

  10. Cindy Black Avatar

    I got myself confused trying to figure out my area code! 🙂 I appreciate being provoked by this post.

    “Here is a goal for men and women which can bring them the fulfillment of their best purposes, the happiness of being set free from their inward bondages, and the calmness of knowing their own soul.” Paul Brunton, from the Notebooks of Paul Brunton

  11. Miami 160 :) Avatar
    Miami 160 🙂


    9- Extremely determined, focused, goal oriented. I currently have a goal that I’m making astounding progress on.

    7- Extremely patient, but also deal withing things in scope or in the ‘present’ goal or situation.

    9- Happiness- I live it. Breathe it. See it. Feel it. Spread it.

    Loving the blog. Awesome Post!

  12. Justin Owings Avatar

    @Michael (via @Julien), here’s a review of Stumbling on Happiness with a couple quotes from the book to whet your appetite:

    I’d say I’m a 577.

  13. Robin Gerhart Avatar

    You keep nudging and pushing us to a better place! I don’t want to be settled in any area code.

  14. niki Avatar

    Oh I recently discovered you and am reading lots of your old posts. I love this one, but just one small criticism… (Disclaimer I’m a mathematician turned software developer) Your scale should be 0-9, not 1-10, otherwise I’m a 4105 and that’s 4 digits. Under the revised scale I’m a 394, so work to do! Thanks for all the inspiration and ass kicking.

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