Dr Lensker, is there a "happiness formula" for how to be happy?
Yes. Go windsurfing ... (laughs). You have to look at the internal structure of experiences to understand how happiness develops. For a high emotional quality experience, like windsurfing, you need to consider three aspects. Firstly: people. The question is: Am I feeling human closeness? When you windsurf, you become part of a community, experiencing the wind, the water, and the beach within this context. It's a pleasant environment, people greet you warmly, we chat and we share experiences. There's a connection. The group is a soul community.
But on the water, windsurfing is a sport for individuals.
That's the second aspect: individuality. You're able to enjoy life through this sport, and to grow. You earn recognition and your individuality is accorded value. Each windsurfer is an individual who authentically represents him/herself. The soul community and individuality are opposites that complement each other and which lead to human closeness.
And what is the third area you use to define emotional quality of an experience?
This is based on the gear/product you are using, but in the way of it being a solution that goes beyond the gear itself. An overall solution which is so great that it inspires you. Again, there are two key aspects: the gear needs to be high quality; the aesthetics, the design, the construction must appeal to all my senses, it must be something extraordinary. But it also must offer simplicity and relief - this is becoming increasingly important in the modern day where everything is so complex. Things shouldn’t be complicated. My gear must make it easy for me to experience a great sports adventure. I want to enjoy it, after all, not have to think about a thousand technical things. This is Steve Jobs' formula from Apple. Simple, with total desirability. A simplicity that can inspire. The Duotone Power XTis a great example of that.
What does this quality of experience lead to in the end?
Community and simplicity means security. I'm interacting with people who are helping me, and my equipment is easy to use, I've got it under control. I feel safe. Individuality and enjoyment means that I feel stronger as a person. Personal development means inspiration. Windsurfers experience the power of nature, which moves and accelerates you, with every session on the water. You have to be brave. It's exciting, and you feel the strength you gain when you're playing with nature.
Isn't the search for joy a little selfish?
On an everyday basis, you often get discouraged, you get repeated crises of confidence. I can't do what I want to do at work, my work isn't valued. I might be working for the good of the company, but that doesn't satisfy me. I can't enjoy myself there. You need time out from something like that. I need to recharge myself as a person and regroup my strength. The ideal experience involves being active, not relaxing lazily in front of the TV. The body acts on the mind. If you're physically active and mentally agile, then you're naturally happier. If you have the courage to try something new, something that goes beyond the everyday small stuff, you strengthen your resolve and shift the perspective from "Where do I want to go?" to "Who do I want to be?".
Are there different degrees of happiness? Do windsurfers experience happiness in a different way to marathon runners, for example?
Definitely. Windsurfers have a higher experience of self-worth than marathon runners. Marathon runners measure themselves against their race time. For the quality of the experience, however, performance is irrelevant. Windsurfing is a very different level of excitementthat you don't get with normal types of sport. This is the first time in my 20 years of research experiencethat I've faced this extreme amplitude. In my research, we measure excitement on a scale from -100 to +100. Normally, people are somewhere on the border of satisfaction and the first level of excitement with a touch of joy, between 20 and 40. With windsurfing, we're talking about a level of excitement of 70 or 80, almost the top of the scale, and this is what gives people this really incredible kick.