It’s better to be clueless, but only half the time

March 7, 2011 – We’ve all heard the clichéd sayings that ignorance is bliss, and that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Do you believe that to be true? Are less intelligent people happier than super intelligent people? Is being uniformed the way to be happy? Is it better to be clueless?

That’s a lot of questions to throw at you at one time, but they all ask the same thing. To find an answer, let’s start with some statistics.

Results of a recent general social survey suggest that wealthier people tend to be happier than poor people. That’s hardly surprising news. If fact, the survey showed there was no one change that would make a person happier as much as moving from the bottom 5 on the income scale than to the top 5. Since most people with money are well-educated, let’s score one for the “informed” column.

However, statistics also show that people who do something as simple as switching off the evening news tend to be happier. After all, it’s difficult to listen to destruction and misery everyday and remain blissful. Maybe there is something to remaining clueless.

I could provide more examples, but we’d still be at a standoff because there are both good and bad points to being informed and remaining clueless, which leads to my next question. What makes people happy?

If you asked 50 people that question, you’d probably get several different answers. However, experts explain that happiness breaks down like this:

50% of a person’s ability to be happy comes from genetics, which means we all born with a happiness “set point”. 15% of our ability comes from our circumstances, such as health, where we live, what we do, etc. And 35% comes from the areas of our life which we can completely control, such as our attitude and how we react to situations around us.

So, we’re back to square one. It appears that we can control about half of what makes us happy, while the other half is determined for us. Genetics vs. circumstances/attitudes is just about as equal as being informed vs. remaining clueless. It seems that like most things in life, the answer is in the middle.

It’s interesting that we use the phrase “ignorance is bliss”, leaving out the second half of the quote, which is from a poem by Thomas Gray. He actually wrote, “While ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”

We’re in the middle again.

I guess that means it’s wise to have a little balance in life.

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