How to Stay Happy
What would make you happy?
Perhaps you wish you had someone to share your life with, and you know that a relationship would make you happy.
Maybe you feel like a different job would be the key to happiness—doing something you enjoy, or getting that big promotion.
If you had more money, you could finally stop stressing about it and enjoy life.
You might dream of living somewhere far away and exotic, instead of being stuck here.
Having the things you want in the various areas of your life can make a difference to how happy you are, but much less of a difference than you might think.
Goals matter for happiness, but they don’t guarantee it.
In fact, research shows that only 10% of our happiness comes from outside events, such as our circumstances.
So it’s risky to tie your happiness to outside events… and yet, this is the mistake most people make when it comes to being happy.
We believe that when we have everything we dream of, we’ll stay happy.
In reality, getting what you want will give you a very enjoyable emotional high for a while. Maybe the first month at that new job seems like a dream, or that new city feels like magic. Fall in love and you’ll enjoy an exhilarating three months of believing your partner is perfect.
But then you realise that there are aspects of your job you find frustrating, and your new boyfriend or girlfriend is capable of hurting your feelings. That there’s traffic in this city, too.
The high doesn’t last.
We get used to good things.
Psychologists have found that we experience what they call “hedonic adjustment”: we adapt to new, good things that once brought us great pleasure. (There is a survival benefit to this - we adjust to difficult circumstances, too.)
Once we adapt, we return to our happiness “set-point”, and feel more or less the same as we did before.
Because of hedonic adjustment, we end up on the “hedonic treadmill”…
Since every time we achieve a goal, the high inevitably fades, we end up feeling like we’re constantly jumping from one goal to the next, never really enjoying the destination quite as much or for quite as long as we thought we would. We don't stay happy.
Making the mistake of tying your happiness to your goals will make you feel discontent and anxious.
If you believe that your happiness is dependent on getting what you want, it’s highly likely that you’ll feel pretty discontent with how your life currently is. Why?
1. Your happiness is anchored in the future… which means it’s not here now.
2. You’ll be constantly comparing your present life to the future life you wish you had.
You’ll also feel pretty anxious, because:
1. Your happiness becomes dependent on specific things.
2. You don’t know for certain if you will ever get those things.
3. Even when you do achieve the things you want, the high fades, so you can never be sure you’ll find lasting happiness.
If you want to stay happy, you need to learn how to separate your happiness from outside events.
When your happiness comes from inside of you, you’ll be able to maintain a sense of inner peace and stay happy despite whether you get everything you want or not.
Research shows that a whole 40% of your happiness is dependent on your outlook—that’s a significant amount!
This doesn’t mean that you won’t get that wonderful emotional high when you do achieve a goal.
You will, but you will have changed your happiness baseline. Your set point will be higher, so, when you comes down off the high, you’ll still feel pretty happy.
This doesn’t mean that you should give up on having dreams or aspirations. I agree that these are an important part of life.
Rather, it means you no longer hold your happiness ransom against them.
True happiness comes from inside you, it’s about feeling a deep sort of satisfaction and fulfilment. It’s about being content with who you are, with what you have, with what you’re putting out there.
It’s about no longer constantly striving to meet your expectations of how life "should" be, but about accepting life as it is even as you acknowledge you want to move forward.
A sense of inner peace where you are able to think: “It would be nice if I achieve this goal, but I’ll still be happy if I don’t.”