Skip to toolbar

U = I – R (Unhappiness equals Images minus Reality).


I can’t say enough about Dennis Prager’s masterpiece, Happiness Is A Serious Problem.  It is must-reading for anybody who would like to be happy right now — or for those who are considering adding happiness to their lives in the near or distant future.

In Business:

You’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve sat down at a fast-food restaurant, unwrapped your burger, and thought, “Gee, that doesn’t look anything like the one they showed in the TV commercial last night.”

You went in with an image of a “10,” but you got a “2.”  So your unhappiness with the burger is an “8.”  This is the ultimate customer satisfaction equation.  You can use it for every aspect of your business.

Is your advertising promising a 10, but you’re only delivering 3s and 4s at best?  When people call your office, is it reasonable to expect a 6, but your phone system turns the experience into a 1?

You can use this equation to over-deliver, too.  Again, that’s the way to create evangelists out of your customers.  If they’re used to getting 5-level treatment everywhere else for some mundane experience, what can you do to rock their world and give them a 9?  That would give you a “minus 4” unhappiness number.

Lower is better.  Now you’re so low that you’re into minus numbers, which actually moves the customer satisfaction dial over to where we dreamed of being: happiness territory!

I think you need to deliver a 0 for a satisfied customer, a minus 2 for a customer who will refer friends and family to you, and a minus 4 and below for a customer who feels compelled to tell a complete stranger about you, if given the opportunity.

In Life:

As Mr. Prager states so well in his book, “If unhappiness is measured by the difference between your image and your reality, unhappiness can be reduced by either dropping your images and celebrating your reality or keeping your images and changing your reality.”

More than that, I think the formula is a tremendous help in identifying the causes of your unhappiness.  We often find ourselves in an unhappy mood, but are not exactly sure how we got that way. 

“What happened?” we might ask ourselves.  “My day was going fine earlier, now I just feel like going home and climbing back into bed.”

It’s great to be able to play back the last few hours and ask, “What happened where my reality fell far short of my images?”  The answer tends to jump out pretty quickly.

So remember…

U = I – R (Unhappiness equals Images minus Reality).

– Dennis Prager

Related Articles