Key Things to Keep in Mind About Happiness
(from Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert)
1) We often exaggerate in imagining the long-term emotional effects certain events will have on us.
2) Most of us tend to have a basic level of happiness which we revert to eventually.
3) People generally err in imagining what will make them happy.
4) People tend to find ways of rationalizing unhappy outcomes so as to make them more acceptable to themselves.
5) People tend to repeat the same errors in imagining what will make them happy.
6) Events and outcomes which we dread may when they come about turn into new opportunities for happiness.
7) Many of the most productive and creative people are those who are continually unhappy with the world and thus strive to change it.
8) Happiness is rarely as good as we imagine it to be and rarely lasts as long as we think it will. The same mistaken expectations apply to unhappiness.
It’s a funny thing, but it’s time to face it. We’re miserable at predicting the emotional future. The surest way to end up in misery is to shoot for happiness.
We have no idea at all what we want. We think we do, but we’re wrong.
I find this theme repeats over and over in my life — I strive for a thing, only to find, when I attain that new thing, that I am basically still me at the end of the day. Nothing has fundamentally changed.
I have been wrong so many times about how I’m going to feel about a thing I’m yet to try that at this point in my life it seems a lot more productive to just try something and see what happens rather than try to work out how different outcomes will make me feel.
While this sounds terrifying in theory, it’s really freeing. Sure, happiness fades but so does unhappiness. And I’ll be the first to tell you that some of the most challenging, intimidating changes I’ve taken on in my life (opening a marriage, making a move cross country, going to back school, etc) have led to more happiness than I ever would have guessed.
But happiness is not a thing you aim for, hitting the target and then lording over indefinitely like riches. Oh no. It’s a dynamic state that needs continued challenge and periodic replenishment. It’s an ongoing job and masquerades as other things.
Happiness is not a good goal. It’s a pleasant byproduct of effort, risk, and earned gratification. Happiness is the smoke, not the fire.
I used to strive for happiness. It’s what I’d been told all my life to seek, to target, to purchase. But a few years back, I changed my life’s goal to having experiences.
And that’s made all the difference.
What are you waiting for? Just try something.