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Are These the Steps to Happiness?

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Folks, there's a story here from ABC News.  Sometimes on Open Line Friday we go off the beaten path, and that's why I let callers do whatever they want to do.  Callers will sometimes bring us back to the beaten path.  I go off of it sometimes.  I use Open Line Friday for things that have nothing to do with the daily ebb and flow of politics, and I've got a story here, it comes from ABC News, and it's entitled, "Nine Simple Steps to Happiness."  And I thought, well, let's read this, because everybody wants to be happy. 

Happiness is an expectation that people have.  It's part of being an American.  It's in the Declaration of Independence.  We declared that the right to pursue happiness is a right granted by God, that it's part of the natural yearning of the human spirit.  People are constantly seeking happiness.  They're seeking contentment.  They're seeking ways out of misery and malaise.  So any time there's a story that comes along that tells people how to do it, I think it's fun to recount it and share with you some of the tips that are offered.  This story starts this way. 

"A few years ago, Debbie Jankowski went hunting for a way to bring her life new joy. She found the solution in her bank account. 'I had always been thrifty, but I decided it was time to spend money on things that would broaden my world,' says Jankowski, who's based in Philadelphia.  She splurged on sightseeing in Ireland and jungle-roaming in Costa Rica with her husband, along with a yoga retreat closer to home. 'These outings have refreshed me and given me perspective,' she says. New research confirms what Jankowski discovered: Money can buy happiness -- if you spend wisely. We asked experts to explain this and other glee strategies, none of which require rose-colored glasses or doing anything with life's lemons."

I don't know if these tips to happiness are in order, but the number one tip, or number one step to happiness is: "Buy Some Bliss -- Really.  You won't find it at the mall. 'Purchasing things like televisions, clothes and coffee machines won't make you happier overall -- but buying experiences maximizes happiness,' says Michael Norton, PhD, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. Research shows that people who purchased concert tickets, a series of crochet lessons or simply a Tuesday night dinner out were happier than those who spent their money on tangible goods."

So you can see where this is headed.  That new car won't make you happy.  The new flat screen won't make you happy.  Tell this to the low-information voter who's out of work.  New cell phone, new iPhone, that won't make you happy.  That new dining room table, it won't make you happy.  The new gadget, that toaster won't make you happy.  You need to go live with the frogs in Costa Rica.  You need to go on some sort of life-building experience. 

"It's because we humans tend to get maximum pleasure and vitality from social bonding. Yet the payoffs start before you leave home. 'The anticipation of an experience can be as valuable a source of happiness as the experience itself,' Norton notes."  Looking forward to that trip, to the frogs in Costa Rica, can be just as exciting as when you get there to hang out with the frogs in Costa Rica.  Just looking forward to it can bring you as much joy as actually doing it.  "'And for months afterward, recalling the event continues to make you happy.'"  You look forward to joining the frogs in Costa Rica, then you join the frogs in Costa Rica, and you get home from joining the frogs in Costa Rica, and you loved it all.

"The cherished-memories effect can even work for outings that went awry: Other research finds that people tend to remember things as having been better than they were."

You know, that I believe.  In fact, one of the Undeniable Truths of Life, nostalgia.  You think back, most people, when you think back to times in your life you remember the good times, and even the bad times, you remember the good aspects of the time.  The music you liked back then that brings you certain memories.  I think this is actually true, that people tend to remember things as having been better than they were.  I think there's a psychological element of that that is true. 

"Not that there's anything wrong with a little materialism every now and then, Norton says. But the emphasis is on now and then: 'We get sick of even the most amazing things in life if we have them all the time.' Another strategy: Buy now, consume later. Economists talk about the 'pain of paying' effect -- the negative feelings of parting with our hard-earned cash. The more time that lapses between shelling out for something and getting it, the happier you'll be with it."

So if you're gonna go buy a product that offers no financing and no payments for a full year, go buy it, you'll be happy.  And then when the year's up and the bill comes due, then you'll be unhappy, but you'll at least have had a year of happiness without having to pay for it, which is why certain businesses offer payment plans like that.  And more and more of them are.  I hear a lot of people, "What the hell is that?"  Nothing down, no financing, and no payment for a year.  And those things sell like hotcakes because people do enjoy it, and there's a sense of not having had to pay for it for year. 

You can sit around here today and you can agree with tax increases on your kids and grandkids that you'll never have to pay and you'll be happy as hell that you're doing something for the deficit, when you're not doing diddly-squat.  You see how this works?  And there are practical political applications to all this, which is where I'm going but I have to take a brief timeout.  It's ABC News, folks, don't think this story has nothing to do with politics, because everything in the Drive-By Media always has to do with politics.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  No, I'm not gonna go through all nine steps on the keys to happiness right now, but, look, let's do the next three.  Number two, simple step to happiness.  "Get Older."  Well.  You know I agree with that.  Every phase of my life I wanted to be older.  When I was 10, I wanted to be 15.  When I was 15, I wanted to be 18.  When I was 18, I wanted to be 21.  At 21, I wanted to be 30.  When I was 30, I wanted to be 40.  When I was 40, I wanted to be 50.  I have always wanted to be older because life gets better.  And I'd always seen that. 

When I was young I wanted to be an old person in charge of my life, making my own money, in charge of myself with my own responsibilities.  I wanted to get out from under the thumb.  I wanted to be out there.  In my case, it's been true.  Every year has been better than the year before.  Every year has been better than the year before.  I'm now 62.  Now, I'm not gonna honestly say I'm looking forward to being 75, but I'm not afraid of it, either.  I'm not sitting here wishing I was 40.  I don't wish I was 30.  And you fantasize about that, you'd love to go back and be 30 knowing what you know now and be able to run rings around people, but you can't do that. 

But it's true, getting older -- I'm amazed how many people fear that.  For me it has been right on point.  These desires I've had to be older.  When I was 15, when I was 12, I wanted to hang around with adults.  They were having more fun.  It was just that simple.  Their lives had meaning, and they weren't looked upon as a bunch of know-nothing schlubs. 

Number three, simple step to happiness -- I love this one, too.  Forget self-improvement, forget all these books about how to make yourself better.  And, by the way, self-improvement has been the cornerstone of being a Baby Boomer.  The Baby Boomer generation has had it so comparatively easy to their parents and grandparents. I've always said we've had to invent our traumas. We've had to invent traumas to tell ourselves how hard our lives are and how stressful our lives are, and all the sacrifices that we're making.  And everything being relative, lives for people today are stressful.  But in a comparative sense, what our parents and grandparents as Baby Boomers had to go through, we haven't had anything like those challenges. 

But nevertheless, we've invented our traumas, and we have created the same amount of stress they had.  The point is, we had to.  And so after we created all of our traumas, then we created the self-improvement books and this whole phenomenon of self-improvement.

"Basking in what's already great about yourself is a more effective route to joy than trying to fix what's not, says Willibald Ruch, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Zurich who studies character strengths and happiness.  Identify your strong suits with the free Values in Action Inventory of Strengths Survey," that they provide here, and think about the good things about yourself.  Think about what's already great instead of focusing on what's wrong with you. 

But we Baby Boomers have been obsessed with what's wrong with us.  We Baby Boomers have been obsessed with our traumas and our trials and tribulations.  We've been obsessed with the pressures and the stresses that we face, and rather than focus on the good things that we've got, greatness that's achievable.  And it's true.  I think this is very true.

The other tip that I like here: "Make tough stuff work -- Even layoffs and broken bones can have silver linings."  I'll never forget those three days of shows that we did with those laid-off 50-year-old white-collar workers and we took calls from those guys and then stayed in touch with them some months later.  And the vast majority of them who could not go out and get jobs to replace what they had been fired from, decided to start their own businesses or at least do what they'd always loved to do but never had done because they were too busy with their job.  At age 50, they said they were never happier.  They finally were doing what they'd always wanted to do.  Make tough stuff work.  That's what that's wrapped up in. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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