Pico Iyer, the British-born essayist, has a nice reality check in today's New York Times, and it's now the most emailed article of the day. Here are a few key passages:
"I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy deep down. The millionaires I know seem desperate to become multimillionaires, and spend more time with their lawyers and their bankers than with their friends (whose motivations they are no longer sure of). And I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied..."
"...my two-room apartment in nowhere Japan seems more abundant than the big house that burned down [in Santa Barbara, CA]. I have time to read the new John le Carre, while nibbling at sweet tangerines in the sun. When a Sigur Ros album comes out, it fills my days and nights, resplendent. And then it seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued."
On a related note, you might want to check out this piece in the The Atlantic, What Makes Us Happy?, which takes a look at Harvard's long effort to answer that question.