While most people may not admit it, we all share an innate love for numbers. Everyone has a favorite number, an unlucky number, and an entirely neutral feeling about the remaining number of numbers. Numbers are everywhere: Google is a real number, i is an imaginary number, 1 is the loneliest number, and Ocho Cinco is a football player. There is even a TV show called Numb3rs, which appropriately airs on Friday nights, giving all us number geeks an excuse to get together, hold parties, and serve… pi (sorry). But in truth, numbers today are as popular as chocolates, fireworks, Thanksgiving, and toilet seat covers. We use numbers to do everything, from measuring the height of mountains, to the strength of earthquakes, to the ratio of blood to alcohol in Amy Winehouse’s body (have we talked about negative numbers yet?).
Similarly, as much as we love numbers, we also love ourselves. Now, I’m not trying to throw Dr. Phil on us here, but I think we can all agree that there are a few people who may suffer slightly from narcissism. A few. Typically we use numbers to judge other people: calling someone a 1 on a binary scale means “I’d hit that,” while a 7 on a ten-point scale means “maybe after a few drinks”. However, we rarely use numbers to learn more about ourselves. Therefore, to capture our universal love for numbers, and our singular love for ourselves, I propose the following:
The Happiness Scale.
The Happiness Scale is simple. It is a percentage, from 0% to 100%, of your happiness at a point in time. 0% means that you are absolutely miserable: friends are obligated to listen to you rant, feed you chocolates, and hide all sharp objects. 100% means that you are giddy, exuberant, and bursting with joy. 50%? Well, it’s just an average day; you’re not hugging strangers on the street, but you’re not contemplating a bridge jump, either.
So, at some point every day, make a note of how happy you are at that moment. You may have just learned of a promotion, or you may have just spilled coffee on your pants, but either way, record the date, the time, and your happiness score. If you are extra ambitious, you could even provide a breakdown of how you got to that point. For example:
70%: Had great fajitas for dinner
-60%: Realized I gained 5 lbs over the weekend
10%: Monday, 8:33 pm
Then, armed with your happiness data, the magic of numbers can turn this exercise into an insightful, Chicken Soup for the Soul-like guide for daily fulfillment. Should you avoid all human contact on Tuesdays? Are you extra cranky after 5 pm? Does your happiness drop with the stock market, the weather, or a Red Sox loss? With your scores, you can take week-over-week averages, calculate means and medians by day, and make pretty bar charts like the one below. You can identify patterns, plot out trends, and perhaps run a regression or two to predict how next week will turn out (if you are worried about endogeneity in your independent variable, you should build a -10% handicap into your daily score immediately).
You could do this exercise alone, or with your friends, as it’s always comforting to know that someone else is having a crappier day than you. In essence, incorporating the Happiness Scale is just like maintaining an easier, more manageable diary–there’s just one entry, and only one question: “At this moment, where are you at on the scale?”
And even if you don’t do this on a daily basis, the Happiness Scale can still spice up your dinner table conversations. After all, the scale is not just for mathletes who like pi jokes, but for everyone who needs a little self-introspection now and then. So instead of asking “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” (and getting the requisite “Not much, you?” response), ask your friends and family about where they’re at. You never know when “not much” actually turns into something interesting: “Well, I’d say 50%. I got a piece of debris stuck in my eye so I had to wear a pirate’s patch all day. But on the bright side, I saved three baby seals from drowning without risking infection to my cornea… So I’d say it was an average day.”