What % of Your Happiness Do You Really Control? Science Answers

The surprising answer and what you can do about it

The Maverick Files
5 min readFeb 24


Photo by Agustin Fernandez on Unsplash

Take control of your own destiny, we’ve all been told.

But how much of our life do we really control? I’ve always wondered.

We sure don’t decide our genetics, what family we’re born into, or what country we’re born in. Our skin tone, race, and a whole of other internal and external characteristics are all decided for us.

Is there a scientific answer to this question at all? I ventured into looking at one of the most important end goals of most things we do.


I’d like to think that the end goal of most things we do or desire is happiness.

Some people want more money, some people want to look good, some people seek love, and others want more power — but these are all things that in the end are towards the pursuit of happiness.

So what really controls our happiness and how much of it is in our own hands?

Research shows 60% of happiness is outside of our control

A lot of people like to think happiness is a state of mind and you can just “choose to be happy.” Easier said than done of course.

But, is there any truth to it?

A paper published in 2005 by Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade suggested three primary factors that determine our happiness — set point, intentional activity, and circumstances.

A set point is essentially an intrinsic characteristic of each person — genetically determined and hence is outside of our control. This factor is also the biggest contributor — 50% of our happiness is essentially this, and hence, out of our control.

Circumstances make up 10% of happiness — external factors and situations around us. Hard to be happy when a loved one has died, or if you’ve been hit by a car and are lying on a hospital bed.

What’s the good news then? The remainder of it is “intentional activity.”

That’s a whole 40% — and trust me, that’s a lot.



The Maverick Files

Thinker, finance professional, loving husband, a doting dad, fitness enthusiast! MBA in Finance & Marketing and Comp. Science Engineer. www.themaverickfiles.com