The fact that no one happiness-factor can claim any uniform preeminence in the data has been frustrating to happiness researchers. It would be nice to report to the public, after all our years of work and effort, that “love” was the answer, or that “success” would pay-off best. But such a single “key factor” simply hasn’t emerged.
Even more frustrating, when happiness researchers have combined all the established happiness-factors in one composite blend — as been done in many studies (citing ) — there still seems to be something missing. No matter how we’ve tried to analyze it, and no matter how much the larger “statistical trends” argue against it, we still find anomalies in our data. Despite the significantly strong indications in our data that “having it made” makes people happy, we continue to find a rare handful of individuals who appear to have most every blessing life has to offer who are unhappy, as well as those who appear to have next to nothing who appear to be remarkably happy.
What accounts for these discrepancies? Apparently, it has to do with how one views their circumstances, not what their circumstances are. As we shall see below, no matter how well, or poorly, one’s life goes in objective terms may not matter all that much when it comes to happiness. What matters more is how optimistically or pessimistically one tends to see it.
Optimism, then, is “the missing link” that helps explain why objective data, alone, cannot fully account for the differences found between happy and unhappy people.