Authentic Happiness Inventory (Science of Well-being Week 1 Rewirements)

After the optional pre-course survey that was more about reasons for taking the course, there was another optional pre-course survey to see how I perceive certain things that might be in my future, and how I feel about my life and myself in the past two weeks or today. Results were only going to be explained after the course were over, so I’ll wait till then to share since the survey has a lot of questions. It takes 15-20 minutes to go through, they say, but when you think about how you can rattle off probably 3 or more quick questions a minute, that’s a LOT of questions to document, try to explain and such.

Besides, if you are reading this and might be doing the course, I don’t want to bias how you might take this optional survey that has a few unexpected things in it which you would be prepared for if I told you about it in detail. This little spoiler shouldn’t skew things much, though. 🙂

Now came the first real meaty part of the course, the rewirements that are homework activities from the course to do each day. They are called “rewirements” because they’re practices aimed at rewiring your habits. Research suggests that if you do these rewirements as prescribed, you should get a boost in your mood and overall well-being.


Week 1 Rewirements – The Authentic Happiness Inventory

The Rewirement for Week 1 is to get your baseline of happiness to which you will compare yourself at the end of the course. That is, if you don’t know how happy you are now (or unhappy), how will you know if you improved or not by the end? This is the first of several parts of Week 1’s Rewirements. It’s not an action or set of actions to rewire some habits as future rewirements will be, but perhaps a change in perspectives on your own happiness that is a rewiring of sorts as is.

This first happiness measure relies on The Authentic Happiness Inventory (developed by Christopher Peterson, University of Michigan). It’s a quick set of 24 questions that provide an overall measure of your happiness levels. You can take the Authentic Happiness Inventory survey online by registering at the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website where you can do it easily and free. There are actually 20 “psychology” tests there, under categories of emotions, engagement, flourishing, life satisfaction, and meaning! I think I’ll eventually have to take them all! 🙂

The instructions to the Authentic Happiness Inventory are pretty simple.

Please read each group of statements carefully. Then pick the one statement in each group that best describes the way you have been feeling for the past week, including today. Be sure to read all of the statements in each group before making your choice next to the statements.

The group of statements are in a gradient scale, usually increasing, like I’m usually in a bad mood, neutral, great and unbelievably great. Why some don’t have a “neutral” sort of answer in the middle, I don’t know, but I’m not here to analyze it. I’m here to take it and have it applied to the course. I would highly recommend giving it a go because despite what you think of the results, how you compare to others that is the only thing told to you at the end, the questions will make you think about the “big picture” about yourself and your life, even if it only applied to how you have felt about it just in the past week. Most people would not be going around thinking much about a lot of the things asked about a lot.


How I did on the Authentic Happiness Inventory

On an index score from 1-5, I scored 3.58 … for what it’s worth as there’s not a lot more context for the raw score number.

What was given was how I compared to some demographics. I am “happier” than:

  • 76% of web users
  • 74% of males (my gender)
  • 72% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 75% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 72% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)


What I though of my Authentic Happiness Inventory results

I am surprised those numbers were not higher, to be honest. Generally, I feel like I’m happier than about 90% of the people around me. I certainly complain about things less than at least 90% of the people around me, and I consider myself around people who are more positive and happy than average. Perhaps I need to reframe this perspective, but perhaps I also didn’t answer as exuberantly as I might have if the top answer weren’t so overly exuberant that it was like there was nothing bad about me and/or my life. It is about how you feel in answering, but even in my happiest times, I am aware nothing is absolutely perfect (cause then I’d have nothing to live for), and my perfect euphoria never lasts long, though that doesn’t mean I can’t be quite euphoric for a long time.

In the survey, I tended to feel in the space between the “happiest” and “second happiest” answer, if I might frame it that way, where I wanted to answer one of those choices, and always answered the “second happiest” choice. One that I did not compromise was about purpose in life. That I know for outcome, just maybe not absolutely how or what road I’ll end up taking there. Because life is not fair, I live to make life fairer is pretty much my general mantra for purpose in life. Otherwise, when people ask me what I want out of life, I answer “immortality”, as in leaving a lasting legacy treasured by the “world”, like a great poem, song, piece of art, something innovative with positive impact on people’s lives, etc. What or how, and especially if, I will succeed is another matter, but the thing with lotteries is if you don’t play, you can’t win (another of my own mantras). I’m willing to earn my more than fair share of “immortality lottery tickets” and I am confident, from a lot of diverse successes in life rather than just some “feeling”, that at least one of those “tickets” will be a “winner”. 🙂

Down from the biggest purpose, all the things I take on, often down to specific actions, have a purpose that is an identity and/or end goal. For example, the origami I took up to a higher level this year came with a purpose of “replicable originality” as described in the linked post. I am learning piano right into the hard stuff to play only probably a dozen slightly challenging classical pieces I’d love to be able to play, rather than more generic build up to play almost anything, for songwriting later, after I’ll have gotten a sense of how some great classical composers think. Even many of my long walking groceries trips, or errand groceries runs, come with multiple purposes. I save money (bus and cheaper prices), along with time from being able to do some exercise and errands at the same time instead of two separate activities. The walks are for days when I have more to carry home than I would be able to run well with, and also to give the running legs a break from time to time. Sometimes I even stop on the walk home to see a friend for an even more multi-purpose trip!

Back to the inventory, though. Those handful of “second happiest” choices when I might well have chosen the “happiest” choice, no doubt, cost me a few percentages on the standings above. I don’t care at all where I stood, just assessing results compared to self-perception for a discussion. But also because of my approach that won’t likely see me taking many of the “happiest” choice under almost any circumstance, I’m not sure feeling happier by the end of this course will show up much on this inventory… but we’ll see! 🙂

I am also surprised at how even the results all were among all the demographics shown. I would have thought the overall results among web users that included both genders would have been higher, with my perception that women tend not to be as happy as men, or also not as consistently. The difference is small enough that it might well be within a sampling margin of error for 95% certainty, so I may have to adjust my perception on the gender difference.

On the other end, I am most pleased where I am considering I don’t have family, kids, not in a relationship, and have learned to accept that I live in a traditional province where Asians males in my age range aren’t very well perceived as potential partners by women in a reasonable dating age range for me. It’s somewhere around 6 out of 7 women from online experiments I have done with identical dating profiles except for race, and with the Caucasian one lacking a picture that should have been a major disadvantage for it, but it still garnered much more interest. This is all in spite of being someone who has almost everything going that you can ask for: health, career, and personality, etc. in what I call a set of “Straight A” attributes – academic, athletic, artistic, authentic, agreeable, amusing, audacious, with “all-star” optional. Good looks are too subjective to judge across the population.

My life experiences for dating in Nova Scotia had been the same as what the online experiments had shown, though there, you always question yourself if it’s your approach or such. There’s no such thing online with computer algorithms doing the matching based on participants’ answers. Also, I don’t seem to have many challenges finding dates in more diverse areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver, where I had lived, or visited for several weeks at a time and ended up on dates without intention of trying to get one on my visit! But this situation should give you an idea of my decisiveness, self-discipline and interest for the public good. I simply said to myself that fine, if the odds were that skewed for no good reason, I won’t bother playing then. I can do better things for society with my time and efforts rather than waste them in such a skewed dating game for my interest and that of only one other. I haven’t asked out anyone in my province in a decade since I found out the true extent of the bias, though I’ve occasionally put out “feelers” to gauge interest. It never takes long to find out I don’t have to bother asking them out, that those women just want to be friends no matter how well we seem to hit things off, so I have many female friends. Meanwhile, I have made good use of my time and efforts that might have otherwise gone into relationship pursuit to improve myself and the immediate world around me. Here, I am choosing to deal with one unfair aspect of life by making other aspects fairer. I’ve learned to make a great life for myself, with which I am very happy, despite missing arguably the most important “thing” in life. I think that to live in a place where you feel pretty much forsaken when it comes to love because of not much more than your race, without my own family in the form of offspring, and scoring better than 3/4 of the population, is pretty damn good! Maybe I should have answered a few questions at that “happiest” level! 😉

Outside the scoring, though, upon further reflection, I am willing to accept the results are more correct because there are enough situations people could be in that could generally leave them to be happier than me. For example, those madly in love, happy functional families, among others. There’s probably them to be 1 in 4 among the population who would fairly be able to say they are happier than me. I don’t have much to complain about in life, but a good chunk of my happiness are not of the really deep kind like a partner and/or kids. I have Parents, some extended family and meaningful and satisfying work, freedom in life, no worries about money from a modest lifestyle, and a few good friends, for reasons that provide a deeper level of happiness. However, most of the other stuff providing me with happiness are like hobbies, which can’t be compared to partners and kids for extent of happiness if the partners and kids even come remotely to what they’re supposed to bring someone for happiness.


To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.

And click here if you want to register for the Science of Well-being course, by Professor Laurie Santos, free on Coursera!


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