David Strittmatter

The happiness equation – keep joy, fun, and pleasure in balance

Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself . – Mahatma Gandhi


  • Happiness = Joy x Pleasure x Fun
  • These three words aren’t interchangeable
  • Balance is the key to happiness

Practical advice:

  • Find an income-source that fulfills you
  • Treat yourself as long as the gain from pleasure compensates the loss in joy
  • Try out a lot of activities & find your hobby/hobbies

Dear friend,

I often think about factors in my life that make me a happy person.

From my point of view, happiness is a simple equation that comprises the emotions joy, pleasure, and fun: Happiness = Joy x Pleasure x Fun

You might think these three words have the same meaning. In essence, you are right; people usually use these words interchangeably. However, there is a small but crucial difference between them. I define them as follows:

Pleasure is the feeling that one has when one (or another person) indulges oneself. It is temporary, and it is only felt when you’re consuming something. For instance, it is pleasing to go out and party, eat out, stay in a great hotel, drive a sports car, sit in a jacuzzi, etc. 24/7. Pleasure is the kind of happiness that can be bought and for which you don’t have to put in the effort.

Fun is when you’re doing something that makes you feel happy. While you have to have fun if you want to feel pleasure, you don’t have to be pleased to have fun. You can even have fun in activities that aren’t pleasing at all. For instance, people have fun when they fight with each other, climb a mountain, work out intensely, give a keynote speech etc.

Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being or achievement of what one desires. While fun and pleasure is short-lived and experienced momentarily, joy is rather long-lasting. Joy is the feeling when you are in good health, have great friends around you, or have set goals and achieved them. It’s a sense of ease, lust for life, and light-heartedness. It cannot be bought, but it can only be achieved by taking care of yourself and the people around you, living life consciously, and being grateful and appreciative.

Pleasure and joy aren’t mutually exclusive

Both pleasure and joy can be experienced simultaneously: You can indulge yourself while you take care of your health. You can drive a Ferrari while you don’t take it for granted, are grateful, and appreciate this experience. You can have a fancy vacation while you have earned the money with a job that you enjoy at least as much as the vacation itself. There is nothing wrong with pleasing oneself if it’s done deliberately and in balance with activities that provide you with joy.

Joy cannot be bought but has to be earned

Unfortunately, people often think these pleasant things are what make them feel joy (and thus long-lasting happiness), but it’s the process of appreciation, sharing, and caring that makes you feel this emotion. To feel joy, you don’t have to be rich. You can share, care, appreciate, and practice gratefulness without a large fortune.

Moreover, just spending money on others won’t make you feel joy, but it’s the act of continuously caring for others. It’s literally a pleasure to treat others, but you won’t feel joy unless you do it with intrinsic motivation.

To maximize the joy in your life, you have to find a source of income that fulfills you, take care of your health, maintain great friendships, and exercise gratefulness. You have to limit things that society, friends, and family make you think are good for you but are actually bad for your well-being, such as a well-paid but nonfulfilling job, too much alcohol and other drugs, superficial values, lots of money, fame, etc.

Balance is the key to happiness

I’m strongly convinced that joy, pleasure, and fun have to be in balance so that you can have a truly fulfilling, happy life.

You cannot be happy if you solely experience pleasure. Theoretically, you could party, hang out with friends, have the most excellent food every day, or do other pleasurable things 24/7. However, in reality, we humans become used to these dopamine (happiness hormone) sources quite quickly. Once you drove a Ferrari, the next ride won’t be as pleasing as the first ride, and the more often you drive a Ferrari, the less exiting this experience will become. The same goes for most other pleasing activities. There are numerous studies, such as this multiple decades lasting Harvard study, showing that pleasure – particularly that obtained through money or fame – is not as important as joy to keep us people happy throughout our lives.

Nevertheless, pleasure and fun are essential for a happy life. Even if you live the most joyful life, you won’t be truly happy. In my opinion, a life without pleasure and fun is a very boring life that offers no real excitement. You need to take risks, sacrifice a little of your health, make bold decisions, and treat yourself from time to time to live life to the fullest. We all are going to die someday; therefore, working till midnight, eating bullshit, taking drugs, making bold decisions, and doing other things that might harm yourself or social circle are okay from time to time as long as the gain from pleasure and fun compensates the loss in joy and well-being.

To have a lot of fun (and as we concluded at the beginning, fun implies pleasure) without sacrificing too much of your health and other factors harming your level of joy, you have to try out a lot of activities and find your hobby/hobbies. Finding the right hobby might take time, but having hobbies is a game-changer when it comes to happiness. Many hobbies come at little economic expense. Additionally, hobbies help you to build strong relationships, give you a great sense of accomplishment, and often foster a healthy life.

In conclusion, you have to work for a happy life. You have to find an income-source that fulfills you, maintain and foster great relationships, find a fun hobby, take care of your health, practice gratefulness, treat yourself from time to time and find joy in sharing.

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