One of the biggest mistakes people make when seeking happiness – and how to avoid it…….
It is true that we all have some idea of what makes us truly happy. Family fun, our good friendships, hobbies … Yet we humans are, sometimes, way off the mark. The problem is that we often invest into one of the ineffective strategies, failing to become happier, wasting money and precious time, and leaving us with the belief that happy people must be born that way.
One of the most common mistakes, one that I hear regularly, is the, ‘I’ll be happier when…..’ belief. The sentence usually ends with some change in the person’s circumstances (you know, life situation or living conditions). They will be happier when they are married, have a child, have the plastic surgery, be awarded a pay rise, put in the lap pool, lose the weight ….
The problem with improving circumstances
Changing these things does bring extra happiness, but only briefly. Our brains are wired so that we quickly get used to having or being new things. Once the novelty of our new 100-inch flat-screen TV is gone, so is its power to make us much happier.
And there is plenty of research to back this up. Heck, researchers even found that multi-million-dollar lottery winners get used to their new circumstances, so much so, that within a couple of years their happiness levels were back to their pre-win levels! We stop noticing and appreciating our improved circumstances after a short time. With the help of willing advertisers, we’re then on the way to spending on our next improvement, in a continuous cycle. This is the mechanics of consumerism.
It didn’t work for me either
I speak from experience. We lived for two years in Bali in a fancy hotel with free access to pools, spa treatments, restaurants, entertainment and gym. We lived like millionaires in paradise and at first, I was ecstatic. But I wasn’t allowed to work there and after running out of things to do, I was bored and couldn’t wait to get out after two years of luxury.
Reliable evidence suggests that only 10% of our total capacity for happiness depends on our circumstances. On top of that, our life circumstances are also relatively hard to change, often needing lots of money or time to make happen. Think about how easy it is to have more kids, buy a lap pool, become the boss, move to a better address…
I’m not suggesting, by the way, that these things should be struck off your lifetime ‘to do’ list. No way. Most these are worthwhile endeavours. It would be a grave mistake, though, to expect your growing family size, your job title, or your status, to make you much happier. If you were unhappy before having them, you can expect to be as unhappy afterwards.
So what to do about it?
Here’s the good news. Genuine, sustainable happiness arises from the interaction between your thoughts and your actions. The daily things that you think and do have a much greater impact on your happiness than does your station in life. I’m talking here about cheaper, smaller stuff like mindfulness, gratitude, acceptance, optimism, kindness, connecting, movement, valued activity, and passionate service. Doing these humble, wonderful things regularly is a reliable and lasting happiness booster. Even the scientists agree.
Happiness is the fruit of your daily wisdom and commitment. There is no need to postpone any happiness to a future when circumstances may be better. Happiness is here and now.
Thanks to Toni Knight from Beyond Happy for this guest post.
Toni Knight is a passionate teacher, coach and counsellor of happiness.