Minimum Viable Happiness

money work Jan 15, 2019

Most of us live a significant portion of our lives driven by the philosophy: more is better. We may not even realize that we’re doing this. You can always use more money. There’s always another promotion to achieve. Who doesn’t need more space? Perhaps you are not into the material trappings. If it’s recognition that you crave, you can always have more likes, more shares, more accolades, more admirers. You can always have more friends, more connections. I can give more examples, but I think you get the idea. (See what I did there?)

There are a few problems inherent in the more is better model. For one, this race never ends. As soon as you achieve the next level, there is a new one right there, vying for your time and attention. We’re wired to keep climbing. I am exhausted. How about you? 

Another problem is the corollary to more is better. It’s called less is worse and it’s even more insidious because it operates almost entirely in our subconscious. Less is worse thinking fosters a feeling of loss aversion that robs us of the opportunity to make change in our lives. Just as we are wired to keep climbing, we are wired to avoid dropping any rungs on the ladder. We also can’t stop, because everyone else around us is climbing so we’ll lose ground, relatively speaking.

The last problem with more is better thinking is that we often find ourselves focusing on the wrong thing. More, more, more requires our full focus and attention. This comes at the expense of everything else around us. When we focus on one area, we often do so at the expense of the other areas in our life. In the end, we discover the thing that has been consuming us is actually a distraction or an illusion.

What if there’s an alternative to more is better?


Minimum Viable Product

In business, we often hear the phrase, Minimum Viable Product. When designing a product or starting a new business, the idea behind MVP is that you provide just enough benefits and features to work, but no more. Your goal is not maximum success, your goal is minimum success. Instead of asking, “how can I make this better?”, you ask yourself, “what is the absolute minimum I can put into this product and still have it work?” Using an MVP approach can yield several important benefits. 

  • You don’t overthink the solution. You can always add more features. You can always make the product better. You can spend your entire life trying to make it better and never actually launch your product. 
  • You don’t lock yourself into a single direction. If you spend all of your resources perfecting the product, you won’t have the option of changing direction should the need arise. Using an MVP approach allows you to keep a resource reserve, which gives you the option of changing direction should you need to.
  • You get feedback early. No matter how well you know your market, you never know the customer as well as you need to. The MVP approach allows you to get high quality feedback from your customer early enough that you can make product changes to better serve their needs.

 What if you took the MVP approach to your life? What if, instead of more, more, more, you took the approach of Minimum Viable Happiness?


Minimum Viable Happiness

Instead of passively assuming that more XYZ will result in greater happiness, take a step back and try to determine the minimum amount of XYZ that could still achieve a reasonable amount of happiness. If you can’t imagine what the minimum amount might be, start where you are right now and reduce from there. If your current income is $100k, could you be happy with $90k? What about $80k? If you are working 50 hours per week, could you work 45 and still be productive? If you have four kids, could you be happy with three? Just kidding. You get where I’m going, right?

The shift from a more-is-better operating system to a minimum-viable system is profound. It changes everything. Here’s why:

  • You can relax. MVH gives you the chance to step out of the never-ending race. You’ll find that you have less pressure to do more, do better. You can relax a bit. After all, you deserve it. 
  • You’ll have more options. Since you are focusing on “just enough”, you’ll have a lot more energy, time, and attention for other things. You won’t be overly committed to any particular path, either.
  • You’ll discover what really matters. When you play the more-is-better game, you end up playing by someone else’s rules. When you take the MVH approach, you’ll be making your own choices about where to invest your resources and you’ll be making your own assessments about what works and what doesn’t. Once you open your mind to new possibilities you will inevitably realize that your original ideas were way, way off.


The Challenge

  1. Identify one area where you are living by the more is better model.
  2. Identify some of the costs associated with this approach.
  3. Identify a small experiment that can help you to discover the MVH in this area of your life.



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