The Science Behind True Happiness [with a few words of wisdom by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison]

In May 2011, I was fortunate to be in the presence of acclaimed author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who was the official speaker during my Rutgers University Commencement ceremony. Her words still manage to penetrate deep into my soul and mold my being, day after day.

I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter, but I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.”

Toni Morrison’s speech carries so much truth with such impressive ease that it can’t be reiterated but just experienced and acted upon. It is true that anyone can look good with the correct use of lighting and photography; but to do good, now that’s something that requires far more conscious effort. 

The objective of this post is to capture the literary essence of Ms. Morrison’s words in a more rationally observed area of human knowledge i.e. science. Since the system of science borrows from nature and vice versa, our natural human tendencies may very well be explained in the language of science as well.

The following is my self-effacing attempt to scientifically explain the secret to true happiness, or as Ms. Morrison suggests — doing good rather than simply looking good.

Physics teaches us that Pressure is the Force applied per unit Area.

Area when spread over a distance ‘d’ gives us Volume.

Force when exerted over a distance ‘d’ is called Work as long as the direction of the force applied is in alignment with the distance covered.

Work requires us to expend our Energy.

Therefore, if we multiply and divide by the variable ‘d’, Pressure can also be represented as the Work or Energy per unit Volume.

If we apply the right amount of force “F” in the right area “A” or field of our choice, our pressures “P” don’t feel like much of an exertion and life becomes meaningful. Moreover, when we feel pressurized in our chosen area of life with a steady commitment to social justice, our hard work “W” can serve as a constructive form of energy “E” to push us to achieve our goals.

However, if we are not moving in the same direction as to what we really want to achieve by our earnest forces, our work “W” carries no value towards our self-fulfillment.


Such work may serve as good experience to boast by word of mouth or pen down on a resume for some time; but eventually, our life will start to seem meaningless and as empty as W<=0.

To that end, one can carry over many formulas to real life situations, beyond the context of their fixed application.

As a finance geek at heart, I will apply a different kind of equation to measure work in my life – The equation of Working Capital –a key formula to determine operational liquidity.

Net working capital = Current assets – Current liabilities 

Your Net Working Capital will carry a value>0, so as long as your Current Assets of striving to give your goals a chance and living in the present > Current Liabilities of negative mindset and thoughts of a past and unfulfilling lifestyle.

Keep deducing the formulae of life my friends! 🙂

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