Project Practitioners > Happiness Is Simple Math

Happiness Is Simple Math

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


So there are many ways to be rich: You earn, inherit, borrow, beg, or steal

enough money to meet all your desires; or, you cultivate a simple lifestyle

of few desires; that way you always have enough money.

– Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior


This quote put in simple mathematical terms is as follows:

Happiness = satisfaction/desires

There are two ways of impacting your happiness: Increase your satisfaction or decrease your desires. How to do so will depend on your subjective viewpoint. Only you know the activities and outcomes that create the most satisfaction for you.

Maybe it is celebrating more small wins, or, to use a baseball analogy, instead of looking for the home run, realize that a few singles cobbled together gets you the same outcome of scoring one run.

Your perspective on your situation may need to change. Maybe things are not so bad, and if they are, move to a situation where your satisfaction will increase immediately. Do not get stuck in a rut.

The alternative to increasing your happiness is to lower your desires. This lowering of desires does not mean giving up on your goals or lowering your expectations. The equation relates to what you want versus what you need.

Start to pick out the characteristics you need in a situation rather than all the wants. Your list of wants is probably greater than your needs. Create a mindset built around your needs. Physically write those needs down and begin to analyze.

Does your current situation meet all of your needs? If not, who/what/where does possess all of the needs? What steps do you need to take to get there?

Do the math. You now know satisfaction needs to increase or desires need to decrease to be happier. And who does not want to be happier?


How to Increase Your Satisfaction

  1. Give employees/team members more control

Three ways to impact an employee’s control are schedule, environment, and work habits. Flex schedules offer an employee the ability to come in at times that are most desirable while still getting their work done. In construction, starting the day at 7 am and ending around 5 pm is a pretty standard schedule. Being production based, this flex schedule may be difficult, but office employees do not have that restriction.

Remote work is another way to impact scheduling positively. Eliminating the commute starts the day on a greater note. No one wants to sit in traffic.

The environment is referencing personal workspace. Gray walls to the ceiling make for a dreary atmosphere. Allowing people to decorate however they want has a major effect on their mindset. If you are around happy pictures of your family and fun quotes, your day can be more productive. Attitude is everything to avoid the mundane.

The happier you are with your working space, the greater the satisfaction you have. Your happiness equation starts to tilt in your favor.


  1. Stop wasting time

There can always be more time. Deadlines are fast approaching. The sun is going down. Time is one of the few unrenewable resources. Once it is gone, you never get it back. So…stop wasting it!

Meetings are the death of time. Ten people gather in a room spending an hour of their day discussing a plan that may change once they all leave the room. Conference calls are a great replacement for meetings. People can stay where they are and receive a similar message. The communication delay that occurs over the phone is far more acceptable than the wasted time of a meeting.

Try to have a meeting without chairs around lunch time and see how many people want to hang around and chit-chat. No one can lean back in their comfy leather chairs if they do not exist. Also, the lunchtime crunch will get people ready to leave. Small little tactics can have a big effect on the satisfaction of the team, which increases happiness.


How to Decrease Your Desires

  1. Know your purpose/goal

Your sense of where you are going limits distractions. A personal example is my celiac diagnosis. I cannot eat foods that contain gluten without becoming sick. Knowing this information helps me eliminate those foods with gluten.

I do not think about gluten or desire a cookie with gluten because I know the negative impact it has on my health.

The same can be said for you and your team. Do not focus on the items or conflicts you cannot control. If you know pairing two members together will cause more trouble than it is worth, why would you do it anyway? The production does not make up for the conflict.

My desire for gluten has been reduced to zero because of the health impacts. Your desire for poor decisions should lessen because of the effects they have on you and your team. Knowing your purpose and goal will help clarify your desires and eliminate any unnecessary wants.


  1. Keep your dream in sight

Again, narrowing your focus will eliminate unwanted desires leading to more happiness. The goals and purposes are based on reality. Your dreams should be based on optimism. These dreams are the best case scenarios.

The dream for the product or service should always be alive and well. If the dream dies, so does the project. The dream of managing 100 residential properties is to eventually make that 1,000 then take 1,000 and turn that into 100,000 properties.

This dream eliminates anything that will interrupt it. Your desire to dominate the commercial sector will not exist because your dream centers around the residential side. Decreasing your desires may be the easier way to gain happiness. Sticking to your path does not allow distractions to knock you off course and become unhappy.



This simplistic approach to happiness is not for everyone. There are too many variables to discuss that impact happiness. I will stick to increasing satisfaction or decreasing desires as fundamental ways to increase your happiness.

One approach may work better than the other depending on the team or organization. Some companies do not offer flexible schedules so satisfaction may not be as great. Therefore, you must decrease desire to offset their constraint.

Other companies may offer a scenario with a lot of satisfaction, and your desires may become uncontrollable.

All of these levels of happiness are subjective. Your situation may seem perfect to others, yet you cannot find the happiness. Remember this equation and see which aspect of it you can change easier. Then, once you have it figured out, take the necessary steps and actions to either increase satisfaction or lower desire.

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