Posted by Tim Stobbs on November 11, 2011
I’ve recently been reading a book that had an interesting point that I’ve always understood, but realized I’ve never discussed on this blog: you should never try to have your life at maximum happiness all the time. It’s a recipe for abject failure and future misery.
I know that might seem like odd advice from a blog that is half focused on happiness, but let me explain my point a little bit. In our culture we have the idea that if something is good, then more of it is better and we apply that idea to stuff, money, work, information and of course happiness. Hence we have an entire industry that exists for the sole purpose of making us better people: the self help product. While I fully admit I’ve read books in this genre, I don’t read many of them. Why? I know it is rather pointless to try and change too much of me.
You see when you turn about 25 years old your brain more of less sets from a neurological point of view. Yes you can still add/remove habits, but your general outlook on life wont’ be changing all that much from that point onwards. So if you are under 25, ok, go ahead and try things as you might make a difference. Over 25? Don’t bother with most of it as you won’t be able to do that much. After all if all this self help crap really worked won’t we all be thin, rich and completely happy?
So this lead me to an important point, I don’t try to be completely happy all the time. It’s a waste of effort. You can’t live life on an emotional high of 9 out of 10 all the time. Since if you even managed it for a while, it would merely become your baseline and then any future happiness would decline dramatically since you would be comparing back to your 9/10 rather than your usual 6/10 level. Thus a typically 2/10 event looks bad from a 6/10 viewpoint and looks much worse from a 9/10 point. Happiness or misery is largely about the difference between your baseline and the event itself. This is of course how you can get addicted to any chemical compounds that help you achieve 10/10 for a while. If that becomes your baseline, then everything other than being on the drug sucks.
What all this means is you want contentment in the majority of your life, so being at a 5/10 or 6/10 level. Thus when you do have a better event you can still notice it and enjoy it. So I focus on not being in a crappy job and generally having a few things I enjoy every week to ensure I don’t drift too far up or down the scale. So yes, try to be happy in your life, but not mind blowing happy all the time. It’s just a waste of money to try.
So what’s your average level of happiness on a ten point scale and why? I personally think I drift around a 6/10 most of the time lately, namely because I’ve been enjoying my new day job so much.