Map Your Way to Happiness: The Happy Map

Here’s an idea. Every single activity in life can be scored along two axes:

  1. How it makes you feel in the moment
  2. How it will impact your life in the future

Let me borrow some Greek words, and abuse some philosophical terms, by calling these two axes praxis and poiesis.

I recently scored activities in my own life according to this simple system.

This is the result:

OK, I don’t do heroin. And I don’t have any parents-in-law. But this is my perceived, subjective scoring of these activities. It’s my Happy Map.

Now, let us journey through the five lands of the Happy Map.

We start in the South-West (or lower left). Here we find things that are bad for me in the long run that also make me feel bad when I do them. Things like worrying, complaining, and smoking. This is not a place I want to be, so let me call this place Mordor.

Next, we move towards North-East, away from pain and misery. We arrive in the centre of the Happy Map, in a place where I am … nothing. Not happy, not sad. Not developing, but not harming myself (significantly) either. I’m on Facebook. I’m procrastinating. I’m watching TV. I’m numb. This is Wasteland. This place has a strange gravitational pull, even if it’s void of any mass or content.

It’s hard to leave Wasteland, but eventually I feel like I have to do something with my life, so I travel North-West. Accomplishing things surely means sacrifice. No pain, no gain. I do interval training to get in shape. I work long hours at the office to build my career. I am investing in myself in Ambitious Masochist Land. Only the guys at Wall Street are North-West of me.

After putting in 14 hours a day at work during the week, I’ve had enough. It’s Friday, and I’m heading down to Sin City. One beer is not enough, I need ten. If it weren’t for my last drop of reason, I’d probably be at the South-Eastern edge of the world shooting heroin.

The next day is awful. I start thinking about my life. What makes me happy? I mean truly, profoundly happy — both in the moment and in the long term. Creating things. Reading. Learning about the world. Writing. Spending time with the people I love. Having good conversations with interesting people. Traveling. Learning languages. Laughing.

These are the things that I find in the State of Zen. That’s where I want to spend my time.

Create your own Happy Map here and tell me what’s in your State of Zen in the comment field below.