Final Happiness Essay

This is a essay that I wrote fall term 2011 at Lane Community College, and the essay is on the subject of happiness.  I bring two articles and a book into conversation with each other, as well as some of my own personal experiences.  I enjoyed writing this paper because the assignment let me bring my own experience, a book, and two articles into the same conversation and essay.  This was new to me, but I learned a lot from it and enjoyed putting it together.  The ability to add my own experiences and thoughts into a subject that I am writing about has helped me grow as a writer and I think that I benefited immensely from this class and from this paper.  I think that my growth will help me later on in college as well as in my career.


If you would like to view and read Steve Maich’s, “Money Really Can Buy Happiness,” here is a link to that article.

If you would like to view and read Steven Reiss’s article, “Secrets of Happiness,” here is a link to that article.

The book is Dan O’Brein’s book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch.  It is a very good book and I recommend it very much.  It taught me a little about myself, and it may do the same for you.

Aspirations of True Happiness

            It was a warm Thursday afternoon this past August, and Mike and I had just met up with our friend Ryan, at the first tee of the disc golf course in Cottage Grove.  We greeted each other with smiles and a couple fist bumps, cracked open a few beers, and began to warm up our arms by throwing a few discs at the practice hole.  We began to talk about what was new in our lives.

Mike told us that he had both his son and daughter most of the time now, but that his son’s mother had just moved to Florida, and he was concerned that this would affect the split custody he had of him.  Ryan told us of his kid’s achievements at new things with a smile on his face, showing us how proud of them he was.  Myself, I told them of my blossoming relationship with my girlfriend, and that there was a possible marriage proposal on the horizon.

All of this catching up on the things of new led us to reminiscing on the things of old.  We laughed and drank from our beers as we began disc golf play.  We talked of our crazy younger partying years and how our lives have changed for the better since then.  We told war stories of the drinking, drug using, and sex.  In those party years, getting drunk, doing drugs, and sleeping with as many cute girls as possible were the driving forces in our lives. Oh how adolescent and immature we used to be.  We chased those short-term pleasures we once thought would bring us happiness, but now know to be untrue.

Steven Reiss in his article, “Secrets of Happiness,” terms this relatively short-term, pleasure-based happiness as being feel-good happiness.  He writes that there are two distinct types of happiness. Those are feel-good happiness and value-based happiness. He defines value-based happiness as a spiritual satisfaction and a feeling of a larger purpose or meaning in life based upon one’s values, and that feel-good happiness is just a short-lived sensation-based pleasure feeling.

Reiss writes, in contrast to each other, value-based happiness is better because it is long lasting and brings true happiness, and that feel-good happiness is weak in comparison because it is short lived and only felt for a few hours at a time.  He applies the rule of diminishing returns to feel-good happiness, which says that happy feelings or pleasures get harder and harder to come by.

While Reiss’ central argument is that value-based happiness is true happiness, Steve Maich in his article, “Money Really Can Buy You Happiness”, puts a different spin on that same argument.  His argument is that even though people have been taught that money is not the key to happiness their whole lives, studies have shown that money does in fact have an impact on the happiness of people.

Maich argues that money does bring happiness, but it does not bring happiness from all the possessions and things that you can buy with that money.  He says that the happiness comes from the ability to eliminate the things in their life that cause stress, anxiety, and depression with that money.

Reiss argues that happiness can only come while living by one’s values and desires, and Maich’s argues that money can help you live by those values and desires.  In Dan O’Brien’s life story we can see the concrete evidence of both writer’s arguments.

In his memoir, Buffalo for a Broken Heart, Dan O’Brien shares his story, and more importantly his struggles and growth, as he tries to live life by his inner-most values and desires.  He tries for twenty years to make cattle ranching pay the bills.  Over those twenty years, most of his struggles had something to do with his money issues or problems, which came from choosing to live his life by his values.

Once O’Brien found the way to live by his values, and at the same time make enough money to not have to worry about the bills all the time, he found his happiness.  This calls attention to Maich’s article and how Dan O’Brien’s happiness came after he was able to relieve the stress, anxiety, and depression he had developed due to his lack of money.  This also coincides with Reiss’ argument, because once truly happy, O’Brien was living life by his deepest value, his value of connectedness.

I think that the arguments made by Reiss and by Maich are both correct, to a certain extent.  I think that this is apparent in O’Brien’s memoir.  My version of happiness is probably somewhere in the middle of both Maich and Reiss’ arguments.

I think that we need to live life by our values to obtain true, lasting happiness.  To me happiness means many things and it takes many forms in my life.  I value many things in life: love, friendship, family, loyalty, honesty, and yes money.  Most of all I value love, family, and friendship.  I value the connectedness I feel when I share time and experiences with the people that I care about and love.

Love is an important part of my life.  My desire to love and to be loved is also important.  To love and to be loved is one of humanity’s most basic desires.  I’m no different.  My love for my family, my girlfriend, her son, and my friends burns strong inside my heart and soul, although I really feel that maybe I need to show and express it a little more toward them.  While my love and gratitude toward them may be apparent to me, it may not be so apparent to them.  This is something I have been trying to work on as I try to continue my personal growth.

The time I now spend with my family means a lot to me.  Particularly the time I spend with my mother.  For a few years, especially in my partying years, we drifted apart.  Not by any fault of hers, but because I was too busy chasing girls and partying with my friends.  The holidays we spend together now are times that I value most.  They are really the only times that I see all of my immediate family.  I find myself looking forward to this year’s holidays already.  Thanksgiving is coming in a couple weeks.  Then come’s my mother’s and my own birthday.  We have the same birthday which makes it a very special bonding day for us.  We always spend a few hours together, usually consisting of shopping, then dinner and drinks.   It is my favorite day of the year.

Our birthdays are followed by my girlfriend’s birthday, three days later.  We celebrate ours together as one.   I am not sure what this year has in store as of yet, but I am sure it will be filled with love and joy.  As long as we are together I will be happy.  I love her.  She makes me happy and is my closest friend.

Friendship is an important value in my life.  I am a social person and I value the relationships that I have made with my friends.  I believe that true friends are hard to come by so the relationships I have with my friends are close.  Whether it is the hard partying younger years my friends and I spent together, or it is the recent rather mellow times we spent together, I will always cherish those memories.  I will cherish those memories of old, and I will look forward to making some new ones.

The reason I am a happier person today than I was in the past is that I have figured out what I desire and value in life.  I have started living life by my values of love, friendship, family, loyalty, and honesty, and have found my happiness because of that.

Thinking back to that Thursday afternoon that I shared with my friends in my hometown, I realize that this was a profoundly memorable, happy moment in my life because of the connectedness I felt.  I felt the connectedness of friendship, love, and the outdoors.  The connectedness of the past, the present, the old me, and the new and improved me.  Those past times, the good and the bad that we shared together had big part in making me the man I am today, and I don’t think that I would change any of them.

I believe that my happiness today comes from the fact that I have seen both sides of the happiness picture that Reiss talked about in his article.  Early in life I was a pleasure seeker, chasing the instant satisfaction that I found in booze, drugs, and sex.  All of that pleasure seeking ultimately in the end led me to damaged relationships with everyone in my life, including myself.

Now that I have realigned my life to live by my values of family, love, and friendship I have found my true calling, and my true happiness in life.  I have become a better man, a better son, a better grandson, a better boyfriend, and a better father figure to my girlfriend’s son.

I have found a new direction in life.  My direction.  Bigger and better things are ahead of me now and I would not trade it for the world.

Works Cited

Maich, Steve. “Money Really Can Buy Happiness.” Maclean’s 13 Feb. 2006: n. pag. SIRS Knowledge Source. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

O’Brien, Dan. Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2002. Print.

Reiss, Steven. “Secrets of Happiness.” Psychology Today Jan.-Feb. 2001: n. pag. SIRS Knowledge Source. Web. 27 Sept. 2011.


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