“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” -Albert Camus
There’s a paradox in the pursuit in the pursuit of happiness: everyone thinks they know how to get a ton of it, but in reality, everyone’s lost trying to find a little piece of it.
We mistakenly think that achieving more goals, making more money, or even getting in a new relationship will do it, but we’re never quite fulfilled.
We spend years scaling up the fence just to find that the grass really isn’t any greener on the other side. Put best by motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar,
“Money won’t make you happy… but everybody wants to find out for themselves.”
Why can’t we accept this?
Why are we stuck chasing more and more fulfills but never actually fulfilled?
Why wont we ever be happy?
Happiness, Like Everything Else, has a Homeostasis
Much of the human experience operates in a homeostatic pattern. You get cold, and the body works to restore its regular internal temperature. You go to the gym, and the body grows new muscle fibers to handle the physical activity that had previously stressed it.
Basically, as Benjamin P. Hardy put it, “Human’s “normalize” very quickly.” We have a tendency for stability, and happiness is all the same.
One of the earliest studies on happiness came in the 1980’s with an “Experience Sampling Method” survey. In this, psychologists gave people pagers, and whenever it went off, each participant had to stop and answer the following two questions:
- On a scale of 1–10, how happy are you right now?
- What have you been experiencing in your life to cause these feelings?
After collating thousands of ratings from hundreds of people, they discovered that happiness has a ‘set point,’ and that no matter what, after a period time, happiness ratings always returned to a ‘7’.
If a participant wrote that a loved one had died, or they weren’t able to pay the bills, their happiness levels would dip to between 2–5 for a while but would later return to a seven.
The same thing occurred with highly positive events also. If a participant wrote that they’d won the lottery, got a new car, or had been freshly married, their rating would shoot above seven for a period of time, but it never lasted, and would sooner or later return to a seven.
To no surprise then, if participates reported doing regular day-to-day tasks like going to grocery store, watching TV, or sitting in their cubicle, they almost always put a happiness rating of ‘7’.
What we get from this, is that we mostly live in a constant state of, “I’m happy, but not happy enough.” If we are able to move beyond this feeling, it won’t last, and we’ll soon return to where we started. Likewise, if we take a dip below, after a time we’ll return to our constant state of mildness happiness.
The question now then is, what does this mean for our happiness going forward? How can we maximize the joy we get out of life?
1. Appreciate What You Already Have
“Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfillment.” -Tony Robbins
One of the reasons we think we’re not happy in the first place is that we don’t appreciate what we’ve already got.
We don’t appreciate that a ‘seven’ is enough, so we’re always thinking, “If I could just get more, I’ll finally have my lasting 10.” But nothing’s going to do that, you’re not going to find lasting happiness until you appreciate what you already have.
This is not to say that you should simply settle for what you’ve got and never seek to obtain more but to know that what you’ve got is enough, and anything else is a bonus.
In my own life, I constantly remind myself of this by saying, “My life is great, but I’m going to make it even better.”
This balance of appreciation and a desire to improve means you’ll be able to experience more joy in life than ever before. Taking me to my next point.
2. Bring a Bigger Purpose to Your Everyday Actions
“Happiness happens when you have a bigger purpose than having more fulfills, which is why we say happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.” -Gary Keller
What’s clear, is that simply doing things that feel good isn’t enough to bring you lasting happiness. There needs to be a motivation beyond your own happiness that gets you out of bed of every morning.
I’ve always said,
“Don’t seek to find happiness. Seek to find fulfillment in something that brings joy to your day.”
Because it’s in the process of working towards something you deeply care about that you find fulfillment and happiness. This can be backed by one study which found a significant association between successful goal striving and subjective well-being. They further said that,
“The association was larger when successful goal pursuit was defined as goal progress, instead of goal attainment.”
It’s not about the attainment of goals, or reaching some ultimate success, but knowing that every single day you’re moving towards your goals and becoming your ideal self.
What we really seek isn’t happiness at all, but to simply be better than we are. If you can bring an appreciation for what you already have, and a purpose bigger than happiness to your everyday actions, you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of blissful happiness.