“We exaggerate the effect a life change will have upon our happiness because we cannot foresee that we won’t always be thinking about it.”― Sonja Lyubomirsky, The Myths of Happiness
Are you happy right now? If not, when do you think you will be happy? Will you be happy when you meet your perfect romantic partner and have a stable relationship with them? Will you be happy when you finally get that graduate degree and secure a high-paying job?
We’re socially conditioned to pin our hopes for happiness on achieving certain milestones. Sure, reaching these milestones might bring us an initial rush and overall have a positive impact on our lives, however, in most scenarios, they never bring us profound joy and lasting happiness.
The key thing to always keep in our minds is that there’s no recipe for happiness.
A research investigation conducted by Harvard University and the University of Virginia reported that we have a tendency to overestimate the happiness that we’ll experience once a favorable event happens in our lives. Along with that, we also have a tendency to exaggerate the negative effect that a catastrophe such as financial crisis or illness will have on the journey of our lives.
Essentially, we design our lives around these positive and negative milestones. We work relentlessly towards the positive milestones, believing that they’ll bring us the happiness that we’ve been searching for. On the other hand, we do whatever we can to avoid the negative milestones, thinking they’ll devastate our lives and bring a great deal of pain and misery.
But the truth is that if our positive achievements don’t live up to our expectations, we easily get disappointed and start seeing them as sour experiences. At the same time, we avoid taking risks and making changes in our personal and professional lives because we’re too desperate and scared to face misfortunes and negative events. In reality, these events are only transient and not as terrible as we imagine them to be. As Seneca once wrote, “There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
In the big picture, setbacks and challenges can be beneficial for us. Recent studies reveal that people who go through some degree of trauma and adversity in their lives are actually happier than those who didn’t.
You might be wondering how’s that possible? There are two main explanations for this. Firstly, surviving hardship and successfully getting on the other side equips us with the necessary skills to overcome it again. And secondly, incredibly challenging events like losing a cushy job all of a sudden, can catalyze positive changes, such as evaluating our life choices and focusing on intentional living, or finally letting go of our fears and inhibitions and pursuing a profession that better aligns with us.
The bottom line is that no matter how much we try to work towards experiencing positive accomplishments or run away from negative events, neither approach leads us to true happiness. Instead, we must rewire our brains and eliminate the toxic myth that happiness, or the lack of it, depend on achieving or failing to achieve these socially prescribed milestones.
Just free yourself from any expectations and be happy wherever you are. This will help you experience authentic happiness in your life.
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