Hacking Happiness: Using Technology for Self-Understanding


How often have you been shopping on a website and added an item to your cart, only to decide not to purchase it? Then, did you start to notice that most any site you visited after that point contained an ad or two for the retailer and specific item you left in your cart? This is known as remarketing, and it’s just one of the ways marketers are utilizing your browsing and purchasing habits to target you more accurately for future purchases.

John C. Havens is intrigued by these tactics, and sees a bigger picture when it comes to their applicability. “I want to help people focus on their worth versus their wealth,” said Havens in a recent interview. “Marketers utilize sensors in our mobile phones to track what we buy, analyzing our emotions based on what we purchase. I want to help people use these amazing tools to track their lives, analyzing the behaviors that increase their sense of purpose.” So, he wrote the how-to book on making this a reality: Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World.

Here, he shares some of the amazing insights from its pages.

DAY: According to your book, we give a lot of information away on social sites, which we should instead be saving and evaluating for our own benefit. Is that correct?

HAVENS: The reason privacy/terms & conditions language is so boring and convoluted is because organizations don’t want you to read them. If we realized how economically valuable the information is about our lives, we wouldn’t give it away so easily. We’ve been trained to think we’re getting “free” services, but the value of the transaction is far from equitable.

DAY: So, how does the average person “tap” into this information and then use it to their benefit?

HAVENS: First, get to know your “quantified self.” Using apps or sensors on your smartphone, commit to measuring personal data around areas like your sleep habits, exercise, or mood. Second, take time to reflect on the patterns in your life your data reflects. In the same way your monthly credit card bill shows you what you value (based on what you buy), see how things like lack of sleep can worsen your mood. Third, start Hacking your H(app)iness. Meaning, now that you’ve seen patterns in your data, you have the power to optimize/change habits to see how they’ll hack or improve your happiness and well-being.

I use the acronym “App” to show three ways readers can benefit from reexamining how they look at their data/lives. That’s the (app) idea in the title, Hacking H(app)iness:

  1. Be Accountable—Be informed about your personal data and stop giving it away. Then you can utilize tools from the quantified self-movement or other emerging technologies to benefit from an examined life in ways that will increase your well-being.
  1. Be a Provider—It’s time we stopped calling ourselves, “consumers.” This term defines our lives by what we buy and finding happiness by increasing our wealth. By focusing on accountability versus influence, we become Providers of character based on positive actions versus empty words.
  1. Be Proactive—By identifying the behaviors that define our purpose and increase our well-being, we’ll be more inspired to help others as a means of spreading the happiness we’ve discovered for ourselves.

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About Author

Amy Day

Amy Day is the Associate Publisher and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. She has an MBA in Marketing Communications and Strategic Leadership from Southern Methodist University and has been on staff with Strategy for nearly a decade. She is an award-winning business executive with customer service credentials from the Disney Institute. In addition to editorial oversight, her regular beat includes business, customer service, publishing, and family/child wellness.

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