The Happiness Delusion

Happiness: it’s the universal goal isn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want some of that action? It’s certainly a lot more enjoyable than say, misery. As emotions go, misery is definitely closer to the crap end of the enjoyment scale.

Happiness is such an interesting emotion because it seems to live in different places for different people. For some people, lying on the ground with a puppy might be nirvana while for someone else, it will be a stress-inducing nightmare. Which tells us that happiness is not so much about the experience, event or situation (itself) as it is our interpretation of, relationship with, beliefs about or feelings regarding, what’s happening.

Interestingly, happiness can also live in different places for the same person at different stages of their journey. There was a time when I was happy training people on the gym floor for twelve hours a day; these days, not so much. At all. The dumbbells and barbells haven’t changed but my relationship with them has.

Based on this, we might hypothesise that happiness is not so much ‘produced or created’ by anything in our external world as much as it is the dialogue, beliefs, fears, values, likes and dislikes of our internal world. That is, our internal response to our external reality. Or, if we wanted to be more philosophical, we might say… the stories we tell ourselves about our life.

When we look past all the typical goals that people often set for themselves (appearance, weight, money, career, status, property, assets, travel), the common thing that seems to drive us all is the underlying belief that somehow, the achievement of those goals will provide us with the one thing we’re really chasing; happiness. For most of us, the goal behind the goal is simple:

“I want to be happy.”

After all, if we didn’t think those things would make us happier on some level then why on earth would we be so desperate to have, own, earn and create them? We wouldn’t. Nobody spends eight years earning a PhD. in the hope that the reward for all their effort will be misery and mediocrity.

Rightly or wrongly, many of us have bought into the “some stuff is good, more stuff is better and the most stuff is best” mindset. For some people, the saying “he who dies with the most toys wins” is more a reflection of their belief system and values, than it is some kind of humorous bumper sticker.

So, is it true?
Can stuff really make us happy?

Well, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, it can make us happy to a point. Of course, it’s nice to have food, shelter, transport, a job and maybe a few toys but no, there doesn’t appear to be a positive correlation between our stuff and our level of happiness beyond a certain point.

If there was, then the guy with two houses would automatically be twice as happy as the guy with one. And the girl with ten houses, well, she’d be frickin’ delirious twenty-four-seven. Naturally, the girl who earns 300K a year would be six times happier than the guy who earns 50K and it goes without saying that the girl who loses twenty kilos would be twice as happy as her twin sister who only loses ten. Obviously. And don’t forget the guy with the twin turbo Porsche which has thirty percent more power than his previous non-turbo model. Since swapping one for the other, he’s now thirty percent happier.

For most of us residing in first world comfort, the key to our happiness has a little to do with our external reality and a lot to do with the stories we tell ourselves about that reality. As I’ve said many times on this blog, we exist, operate and interact in a three-dimensional physical world but where we do most of our living is in that space between our ears. :)

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