Are You Interesting Or Happy? You Can’t Be Both

Human Mosaic

Penelope Trunk wrote a mind-blowing post this week.

She argues that people fall into two categories — the interesting and the happy — and she backs up her findings with academic research. Take the quiz in her post to see where you stand.

Her theory is a bit too pigeonholing for my tastes (and her commenters’ too), but she’s on the right track. People either tend to want to do more or are happy where they are.

So which are your customers? Here are some common traits in each group, adapted from Penelope’s quiz:

Happy People Traits

  • Live close to family
  • Homogeneous social circle
  • Friends who pray
  • Friends who are fat
  • Conservative

Interesting People Traits

  • Have lived all over the place
  • Diverse social circle
  • Goal-oriented
  • Buy the best things
  • Strong opinions on subjective topics

I see the difference in two circles I run in. Dickinson people are chock full of interesting; my college friends have started companies, traveled the world, and move cross-country on a regular basis. Yet nearly all of my high school friends live quiet lives within driving distance of their families in York.

Contentment is the issue here. Driven people always push forward and embrace change. This manifests as unhappiness with the present and a history of interesting adventures. But people who are content with their situation see no reason to change up what’s working and tend to turn down life-changing (and interesting) experiences.

Which are you? As Penelope says:

People with interesting lives do not get offended that they cannot be happy. Happy people are offended that they cannot have interesting lives.

If you’re offended you’re probably happier than most. Lucky you!