The concept of happiness, satisfaction, and the general well being of the individual are timely discussions in the field of ethics. The necessities of daily life, such as the basic needs often leave people with less time to consider the well being of other people. According to Michael Norton (2011) in his video How to Buy Happiness, pro-social or altruistic behavior engenders happiness. Ron Gutman (2011) in another video The Hidden Power of smiling, emphasizes on the need to smile more for better health and long life. Both these speakers offer proven methods of enhancing one’s life with minor contextual differences where Norton advocates for altruistic behavior while Gutman encourages a change of attitude by smiling more often.
According to both authors, gaining or enhancing happiness in one’s life is more of a collective effort than an individual one. Of the two speakers, Michael Norton supports this notion more avidly with his insistence on charitable acts. For instance, Norton claims that the people feel more satisfaction after spending money on others compared to spending the same money on themselves. He cites various experiments in which the average individual claimed to have felt better than usual after assisting somebody else. The college students at the University of British Columbia are a perfect example. Consequently, the social nature of the human being is proven by Norton regardless of the cultural background. Similarly, Ron Gutman explains the contagious nature of smiling on human beings. According to him, it is important for human beings to smile more often thus creating an atmosphere of general happiness and well being. He cites the importance of being around children and people who have a happy disposition. Therefore, happiness is a collective effort and is dependent on the environment. Summarily, the two speakers prescribe more social behavior as a way to increase human happiness.
Both speakers stress on the positive effects of being happy. It is a general desire that leads human beings to seek satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness in life. This notion is greatly reiterated by the Norton and Gutman who extensively list the benefits of being happy. To begin with, Norton claims that happiness in the working class increases their productivity. In his experiment on salespeople, he found out that the satisfaction received by performing an altruistic act led to higher motivation in the workers and consequently an increase in their productivity. He further added that spending money on others led to better social relations among people. It therefore fostered good human relationships. Contrarily, he cited the negative effects of unhappiness primarily due to self-centeredness. He claimed that misers often develop antisocial behavior thus ruining their relationships with others.
Ron Gutman appraises smiling as one of the best ways to remain healthy. He mentions certain interesting facts such as the longer life often associated with regular people who smile. For instance, he claimed that baseball players who smiled frequently lived longer than those who did not smile. Also, he associated smiling with the ability to inspire others and to enhance one’s appearance. Smiling is a universal expression since even the indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea have been spotted using the expression to show delight. Lastly, smiling can maintain the physical health of an individual. Gutman claims that smiling often reduces the risk of an individual acquiring high blood pressure. Certain harmful substances in the body such as dopamine and adrenaline are greatly reduced due to smiling. Evidently, both speakers feel that the cost of ensuring one’s happiness is worth it since happiness in itself is the primary human goal.
Contrastingly, the two speakers differ on the context of their methods. Michael Norton mainly advocates for objectivity in securing happiness because he resolutely claims that performing charitable acts will lead to happiness. He supports his claim by using a survey conducted by Gallup World Poll which claimed that a majority of individuals in 136 countries acquiesced to feeling happy after performing a charitable deed. Therefore, Norton’s claim is universally stated as “every human being will be happier if he or she became less self-centered.” Ron Gutman’s argument is more subjective. Firstly, the premise of his argument lies in the universal expression of smiling. He claims that only a third of adults smile more than twenty times a day However, children are more likely to smile compared to adults. He neglects to say that the reason for smiling is important. Smiling in itself is not an automatic reaction like breathing but it requires a cause to bring it about. Therefore, for one to smile, he or she must have a subjective reason to do so. For instance, people often laugh at jokes because they offer the impetus for one to laugh. Conclusively, Ron Gutman’s argument cannot hold on objectivity alone. Ironically, if one smiled simply because it was healthy to do so, then happiness would not follow the action. Smiling would be relegated to a mechanical task.
In conclusion, the desire for happiness is universal among human beings. Objectively, one can become altruistic in his or her behavior to bring about joy in his or her life. Subjectively, one can smile or laugh when the impetus to do so is present. Generally, the benefits accrued to living a happy lifestyle are numerous and they range from better looks to being physically healthy. Summarily, we should all try to be a bit happier in our lives.
Gutman, R. (2011). The Hidden Power of Smiling. Long beach, California. www.ted.com
Norton, M. (2011). How to Buy Happiness. Cambridge, Massachusetts www.ted.com
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