Schrodinger’s Happiness

Today, I’m going to share something a little different with you.

I find things that happen in threes within close proximity to one another kind of fascinating.  Maybe it’s a crazy superstition or whatever, but I find it weird.  This morning I was on the bus and within ten seconds I came across three things revolving around “happiness”.

1) There was a young girl in front of me reading a quiz in a trashy women’s magazine that asked her how happy she was;
2) I saw an update from someone on FB talking about how unhappy they were and what they were doing about it; and,
3) A bus passed by in the other direction with a sign on the side that read, “Are you happy with your bank?”

I found that so startling –  that within a few seconds I saw three different things questioning my happiness.

Once I started thinking about the question, “Am I happy?” it caused the rest of my bus ride to be self-reflective and even somewhat melancholic.  Not that I suddenly became a brooding, sad clown as I drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge into the city on the bus, but I started being a bit introspective.

As the bus pulled up to the final stop where I get off, I snapped out of the malaise and the idea of “Schrodinger’s Cat” came to mind.

I immediately ran into the cafe where I sometimes get my breakfast on the way to the office, not because of their AMAZEBALLS bacon and egg rolls (shout out to Bar Milazzo on Bridge St) but because I suddenly had started having these weird thoughts and I wanted to write down the ideas in Evernote.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of “Schrodinger’s Cat” let me explain it to you briefly.

Schrodinger was a physicist in Austria between the first and second world wars and he came up with this thought experiment to describe the principle of entanglement in quantum physics.

I’m going to paraphrase the idea here:

Imagine there’s a box and inside the box, there is a cat.  There is also a mechanism inside the box that may or may not release sulphuric acid into the box after one hour – if the sulphuric acid is released the cat will die, if not, it remains alive.  One hour passes.  Without looking inside the box, is the cat dead or alive?

Well, without opening the box, you’ll never know.  In essence, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time.

I remember the first time I read about this in high school, it freaked me out.  I sat there running all the scenarios trying to figure out whether the cat was alive or dead.  Eventually, you just come to the realisation that it’s both and neither and suddenly you are at peace.

Ok, so what does this have to do with happiness?

My life is pretty good, I have a job that I enjoy, my family is great, my online businesses are all doing pretty well and I have my health.  Things are good.

I think the same is true when things aren’t going so well, I just get on with life and take it one day at a time.  I tend not to dwell.

With that said, on a day to day basis, I really don’t think about “happiness” as a concept or contemplate how I feel – I just kind of exist.  I am both “happy” and “unhappy” at the same time.

Schrodinger’s Happiness.

What I find interesting though is that when I start thinking about the question “Am I happy?” I often lose the state of peacefulness that I have on a daily basis.

For the most part, life seems to tick along pretty well, nothing too bad happens to me and I generally don’t win lotto every so often – as they say on Seinfeld, I’m “Even Steven”.

However, sometimes when I start thinking about it, I touch on something that stresses me out and I dwell on it.  Or conversely, I start having thoughts about some thing or event that has the potential to really be awesome and I get all pumped up.

Upon reflection, I get higher emotionally or lower depending on the thought bubble rather than how I’m actually “feeling”.

It’s like the cat in the box in Schrodinger’s thought experiment – if you look inside the box, you work out if the cat is alive or dead, but that’s really only fleeting within the instant you look.  If you ran the experiment a hundred times sometimes the cat would live and sometimes it would die.  It’s almost irrelevant (except for the poor cat, for him it’s pretty important) in the bigger picture.

I find it’s the same with thinking about how happy you are.  It’s a point in time assessment which is influenced by what’s rolling through your mind at any given time.

I just try and roll with the punches and not think too much about it.  Over time I’ve learned that if I’m spending 80% of my day doing things that I enjoy, spending time with people that I like and having a level of freedom that satisfies me, then I’m happy, there’s no need to delve into it too deeply.  If that gets out of equilibrium and I’m spending 50% of my time doing stuff that I dislike, then I’m probably not feeling great about how things are going and I recognise the need to make some changes.

So how do we get ourselves to that state?  For me, it’s all about focusing on doing the right things on a daily basis.  I just find that if I spend time putting the work in across the things I enjoy, but also the things I find tedious things have a way of working themselves out.  By making sure I do the right things as well as the things I have to do that might not be much fun, I don’t allow myself to get overwhelmed and I sail through life feeling pretty good.

This has been a pretty philosophical post, I hope it resonates with some of you.

Leave a Comment