If you don’t already know it, then I hate to be the one to have to tell you, but having just one more thing is not going to make you happy. No matter what it is, the promotion you’ve been waiting for, a new car, or a bigger house – if you’re waiting for it to arrive before you can finally be happy then you may be in for a big surprise.
You must’ve noticed this with other things in your life that you’ve hankered after for an equally long time. When you finally acquire them, they satisfy you only for a brief period until they too become part of the routine. Whether it’s plastic surgery that leads to the ideal body, or even a huge financial windfall, the novelty and excitement lasts only a short period of time and fails to bring the kind of long-term happiness that many of us expect.
I was astounded when this happened with my career. I’d set goals to attain what I considered to be the most illustrious positions in my organisation, because I was convinced that having an impressive title and a corner office would make me feel powerful and appreciated.
As I continued to climb up the proverbial ladder, I was shocked to discover that my euphoria at attaining my goals only lasted a matter of weeks.
The new title and the perks that came with them failed to confer the feelings of importance I was so desperately seeking; and I didn’t go through the grand mental metamorphosis I’d come to associate with scaling greater heights.
In fact, very quickly after attaining my desired position, I’d slump back into familiar feelings of dissatisfaction, which prompted me to start looking for the next mountain to conquer. I needed to feel valuable; and I wanted other people to get a sense of just how valuable I really was.
And so the cycle continued until one day, even I was forced to recognise the objective reality: I’d spent a lot of time chasing things I expected would make me feel happier, but my strategy had failed. Do you know why that is?
It’s due to a peculiar, although very powerful, phenomenon known by psychologists as ‘hedonic adaptation.’ This refers to how we become accustomed to the changes in circumstance in our lives. Whether it’s a job change, marrying the man of our dreams or even a sudden disability, we become habituated to such changes and quickly return to our previous levels of happiness.
Yet despite the plentiful evidence of this in our lives, many of still believe that attaining more money, power or fame will bring us lasting happiness, but it won’t.
Consider this study conducted in the 1970s, by psychologists who interviewed people who’d won up to one million dollars in the lottery in order to examine their levels of happiness. Less than a year after being informed that they’d won the money, the winners reported being no happier than ordinary people who’d never received that kind of financial windfall. This was due to the fact that after attaining more money, they had even bigger aspirations; and they had succumbed to social comparison.
No matter what we achieve, we will always want more, not because we’re greedy, but because our natural trajectory is growth. We’re constantly looking for grander things to create in our lives.
Because of this, many of us spend our lives in a perpetual state of wanting. It doesn’t matter what we have, we fail to experience the joy we deserve because we are waiting for that next big thing that we believe will make our lives complete.
We seek greater career advancement because we think it will come more power and feelings of abundance; we seek more money because we think it will provide us with a greater sense of security; and we want better bodies because we’d like to feel more attractive and confident around members of the opposite sex. The list goes on and on.
Absolutely everything we want, it’s because we believe we will feel better once we have it. But we don’t have to wait to acquire anything before we cultivate those same positive feelings we believe those attainments will bring us.
There’s a much quicker route to happiness, and that is: feeling more powerful, secure, abundant or enthralled with your body right now. Whatever feeling you’re after, don’t wait to experience it.
If you want to feel adored and appreciated, think of all the evidence you have of being adored and appreciated in your life right now – the family members or friends who love you unconditionally. Bask in those feelings and stop your never-ending quest for them.
Similarly, don’t wait for a significant other to enter your life before you feel attractive and confident ÔÇô find things to love about yourself right now; and it won’t matter what anybody else thinks. Don’t wait to be promoted in order to feel powerful. Look at everything you’ve created in your life until now and realise that it’s absolutely within your capabilities to create even more.
Don’t postpone your happiness until some future date when you’ve attained more. More things are not going to make you happy; and even if they do, it will only be for a short period of time.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for improvement ÔÇô indeed, you should ÔÇô but don’t use it as an excuse for why you’re dissatisfied. Find ways to experience the positive feelings you’re after today.
Choose happiness now! Feel better even before you get what you’re looking for. Ironically, when you do this, it hastens the arrival of the very things you want into your life.
Life is a process, not an event. It’s not just about arriving at our chosen destination; it’s about enjoying the journey along the way.
Whatever it is you’re seeking, choose to be happy while it is making its way into your life. Remember: happiness delayed is happiness denied.