Porter Knight’s Happiness Equation


I’m calling this post “Porter Knight’s Happiness Equation” to distinguish it from the happiness equation that has been my mantra for the last several years: Progress equals Happiness. (Click here to read Does Progress Equal Happiness?) Although hers is completely different, don’t worry, they don’t cancel each other out!






Do you think the path to happiness can be distilled down into a mathematical equation? I do! And so does Porter Knight. Click To Tweet

Meet Porter Knight

Porter Knight is a productivity specialist who lives in Vermont. In fact, her business is called Productivity Vermont. She was my first NAPO instructor when I joined in 2004. Porter developed and taught “Introduction to Professional Organizing” and “Starting an Organizing Business.”  She was the perfect person to set the tone for what it meant to be a professional organizer and made me feel that I was on the right path.

I got to meet Porter in person only once, at the NAPO2012 conference in Baltimore. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity! But our paths have not crossed since. So I never really got to know her. When I saw her essay about happiness, in her newsletter, I felt compelled to share it. I searched for it on her website and on social media, but to no avail. Then I got brave and asked her (via email) if I could share her essay with my readers, and she agreed. She wrote, “I absolutely know who you are!” (Why does it always surprise me so much when people remember me?) She also indicated an interest in expanding her horizons, virtually, beyond Vermont, with plans to update her website and become more active on social media.

So, this is kind of like a guest post — which would be a departure for me — and an indication of how much her words resonated with me. She wrote it as a New Year’s piece, but her perspective is timeless. Why write about happiness? Because, according to Porter — and c’mon, doesn’t it make sense? — happiness has a strong correlation to performance and productivity.

Now, here’s Porter:

Let me introduce you to my “Happiness Equation.”

That’s right. There’s a formula for happiness. Cultures around the world where citizens report the greatest happiness and life satisfaction have a lot of things in common. I’ve distilled a few of those components into an algebraic equation. I guarantee an uptick in your happiness if you add more connection and contribution, and let go of attachment. The formula looks like this:

(Connection + Contribution) – Attachment = Happiness

Connection – Being included is a basic human need. We experience greater happiness when we feel connected to other people. The more connections you have, the greater the satisfaction. Look for ways in 2023 to create more and deeper connections with family, work colleagues, neighbors, teammates, book group members, etc. The more you engage with other people, the greater your sense of satisfaction.

Contribution – At our core, we all want to feel like we are doing something worthwhile. Making the world a better place is a key aspect to happiness. You can do that as a parent, as an employee, as a volunteer, as a neighbor. In everything you do, look for ways to be helping others, helping your community, and contributing to society as a whole.

Attachment – While being connected to other humans is good, being attached to expectations is not. Attachment is associated with the negative or hurt feeling we get when things don’t turn out as we expected, when things don’t seem “fair,” when we don’t get what we want. Letting go of attachment means practicing radical acceptance of what is. Accepting reality doesn’t make you passive, it actually makes you better able to create change. Furthermore, being rooted in reality instead of hanging on expectations creates a more resilient mindset and a deep sense of calm, both critical to improved happiness.

Now that you know what to build more of (Connection + Contribution) and what to let go of (Attachment), your 2023 will be full of joyful engagement! I wish you a very Happy New Year!

(Connection + Contribution) – Attachment = Happiness

Introversion Adjustment?

I’m sure, when it comes to connection and contribution, that there’s room in the equation for an introversion adjustment. I’m thinking of my post What is Your Socializing Sweet Spot? Plus, it doesn’t have to be in person. In this post(-ish) COVID world we have all learned new ways of connecting and contributing, haven’t we?

What do you think?

Does “joyful engagement” (minus attachment) ring as true for you as it did for me as a path to happiness?

Thank you, Porter! I look forward to seeing more of you in cyberspace!

Copyright 2023 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
Hazel is an author, family historian, and retired residential organizer.
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  1. Sabrina Quairoli on February 6, 2023 at 8:16 am

    I love this formula! I do find that I am more upbeat and happier after I have connected and contributed, without any expectation to the world and the people around me.

    My husband and I were talking about his future trip and the importance of not going into a new experience with a level of expectation because it will disappoint him. I find this happens with people who are perfection oriented. Their ideal is always more than the efforts of others. So, going in and lowering the bar or, better yet, not expecting anything will allow for happiness with the outcome.

    • Hazel Thornton on February 6, 2023 at 9:01 am

      I’m glad it resonated with you, Sabrina. Thanks for commenting!

    • Porter Knight on February 6, 2023 at 11:51 am

      I was honored when Hazel reached out to share my Happiness Equation and I’m glad it resonated. Now I’m inspired to write more, which as Hazel shared, is a 2024 goal of mine. I also have a formula for overcoming perfectionism, so prompted by your comment I’ll put that on the “newsletter topic list” for the not-too-distant future. Thank you for the nudge!

      • Hazel Thornton on February 7, 2023 at 9:07 am

        Hi Porter! We look forward to hearing more from you. I’d love to know your formula for overcoming procrastination! In turn, perhaps you’d be interested in my “Procrastitivity Zone” chart.

  2. Linda Samuels on February 6, 2023 at 8:46 am

    Wow! It has been a long time since I heard Porter Knight’s name. I’m happy to know she’s still actively engaged in her business. I don’t remember when we first met, but I always enjoyed hearing what she had to say and teach.

    I understand the desire to create a happiness formula, and what Porter lays out does make sense. However, I like to think of happiness as a ‘personal recipe’ because of the many ways joy is fostered, along with connection and contribution.

    • Hazel Thornton on February 6, 2023 at 9:00 am

      Yes, there are any number of paths to happiness. This one is Porter’s and, along with my “Progress equals Happiness” (which I got from Tony Robbins), is now ONE of mine. What’s yours?

  3. Janet Barclay on February 6, 2023 at 9:38 am

    I am so HAPPY to read this post!

    First of all, Porter is part of my history too. She did a presentation at a POC Conference about public speaking. I wasn’t able to attend because I was presenting at the same time, but I sought her so I could buy a copy of her workbook (which I still have). I also worked with her for a time, when she sent me a copy of her book, Organized to Last (which I also still have).

    We lost touch a number of years ago, so it’s wonderful to see her name here, but I’m especially taken with what she wrote because my word for 2023 is CONNECTING and she not only covers this but takes things further. Awesome stuff!

    • Hazel Thornton on February 6, 2023 at 10:07 am

      Small world (having a connection to Porter), and great coincidence (your 2023 word)! I’m happy to be re-connecting folks in my world to Porter Knight!

  4. Julie Bestry on February 6, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    First, OF COURSE everyone knows you Hazel. You’re Hazel! Duh! (I’ve also known Porter for two decades, though I probably haven’t seen her more than once since you did!)

    Second, her equation really resonates with me. Granted, I’m an extrovert, so human connection (deep and broad) is essential to my happiness, and being useful to others is something that really satisfies me. So far, so good. The Buddhist notion of detachment fascinates me, but I’ve yet to succeed, let alone master, that aspect. Like Sally Albright in “When Harry Met Sally,” I want what I want the way I want it, and my expectations, unmet, are wrenching. But I’ll keep working on it, because happiness is on the horizon, even if far away.

    Thank you for sharing Porter’s formula!

    • Hazel Thornton on February 7, 2023 at 9:09 am

      Hi Julie — I’m glad you like Porter’s formula, even if it’s easier said than done. P.S. It was the same conference, where I met Porter and where you said, “Everyone knows Hazel!” in the elevator!

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