Story at a glance

  • Albert Einstein wrote about his ideas on achieving happiness back in 1922.
  • He suggested that a modest life can bring more happiness to someone than one stuck in the pursuit of success.
  • Einstein’s note on happiness was deemed incredibly valuable, selling for $1.8 million back in 2017.

Arguably one of the world’s best known geniuses, Albert Einstein proved to be well beyond his years when he toyed with the idea of how to achieve happiness.

Back in 1922, Einstein traveled to Japan for a lecture series after he had received a Nobel Prize for his contributions to theoretical physics and for his discovery of the photoelectric effect. During that trip, Einstein gave a hotel bellboy a stack of signed notes, which included ideas of what it meant to be happy.

According to Inc., one of the notes was written in German and said, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness."

Those 17 words would turn out to be decidedly relevant as people all over the world attempt to figure out how to achieve happiness in life. That note, along with others, sold for $1.8 million in 2017 at an auction house in Jerusalem. 


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Psychology Today explains how happiness isn’t defined by a singular joy, but actually involves a considerable amount of discomfort. It argues that genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships and even your neighbors can all influence how happy a person feels. 

In many ways, happiness is under personal control, which is what Einstein may have been calling for as he suggested a calm and modest life brings more happiness. 

That’s similar to what Frank T. Andrew, professor of psychology at Knox College, said about achieving happiness to Space.com. “We work very hard to reach a goal, anticipating the happiness it will bring. Unfortunately, after a brief fix we quickly slide back to our baseline, ordinary way-of-being and start chasing the next thing we believe will almost certainly – and finally – make us happy." 

However, success and happiness seem to be related as researchers back in 2005 conducted a massive study with 275,000 participants to understand the theory of happiness. They found that personal and professional success may lead to happiness and that happy individuals sought out and undertook new goals in life.

“When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable. Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions," said Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., of the University of California, Riverside who was a coauthor of the happiness study.

Though Einstein’s simple 17-word note hinted at the theory of happiness, experts have found that there are many ways to achieve it and every person has a unique route to getting there. 


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Published on Nov 29, 2021