Far too often, we find ourselves thinking, “If I can just accomplish X today/now, I’ll definitely be happy tomorrow.”
Society has ingrained in us the belief that working toward a specific goal is the key to being happy. After all, when we finally reach that objective we’ve established for ourselves, that accomplishment will fill us with a sense of relief, joy, and satisfaction that we translate into “happiness”, right?
Well, in this post, we’re going to take a look at happiness from a slightly different perspective, treating it not as a prize after some great achievement, but as a state of mind that is built on a lot of small, often mundane things.
If you can wrap your head around this concept of happiness, you may just find yourself feeling much more satisfied and joyful every day!
Scientists and psychologists have been studying happiness for decades, and a number of pretty important discoveries have been made already :
It’s the experiences that make up our day-to-day lives that truly decide our degree of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is less successful in the professional realm (financial success, reaching a position of prominence, etc.) than in the social realm (creating new friendships, spending more time with family, etc.).
More “vague” happiness goals are often better and more achievable than specific ones.
Happiness isn’t just the by-product of success; it can also lead to greater career success than most of us realize. Positive emotions contribute to positive outcomes at work!
Happiness and job performance are intrinsically linked. People who are happier work better, and vice versa.
The happier an organization—meaning the happier and more satisfied its employees—the more successful and productive it is.
Happiness not only makes us feel better about ourselves, but makes others feel better, too. It’s contagious!
If you look at these findings, you’ll realize they all have one thing in common: they’ve got nothing to do with any specific achievement or objective completed.
Most of us have an erroneous mindset that reaching some goal will be the key to happiness. We can work ourselves to the bone today with the promise or hope that our tomorrow will see some great improvement. We allow our stress and pressure to pile up because we’re deferring our happiness until later, hanging it all on the outcome of whatever goal we’re trying to achieve.
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But that’s actually the wrong way of looking at it. As the science above makes it clear, happiness isn’t about achieving bigger and bigger goals in life. It’s not about accomplishment or fulfilling some professional objective or achieving financial success. It’s about enjoying the everyday things that you do, the day-to-day experiences that make up our lives.
Think about it: even if you do achieve that goal and see HUGE payoff for all your effort, how long do you think those feelings of accomplishment will last? An hour? A day? A week? A month? Eventually, the goal will be far enough in your past that the positive feelings will fade, leaving you with just another job and another goal to shoot for. Your happiness will be gone, leaving only the work, pressure, and stress.
That’s why it’s so important to focus on the real happiness. To put it plainly:
That’s right! Happiness is about your state of mind and positive emotional experiences TODAY. You can still work toward tomorrow’s goals—and you definitely should—but deferring happiness is the wrong way to live your life. You should still make certain that your “today” is happy, every day, as often as you can.
Remember: our overall state of wellbeing isn’t built only on the big, grand “highs” of life. These huge experiences are certainly important, but often it’s the little things that we remember. Those quiet moments with your children. That happy evening where you and your partner laughed over silly things. The time you spent with your parents. The social activities with your friends. All of these things are the true pillars upon which your happiness is built—not big events, but lots of small, positive events stacked one upon the other.
The key to being happy isn’t to have some high-minded, high-achieving goals that you’re always striving for. It’s a PART of happiness, certainly—after all, we need to aspire to do great things and push ourselves, and accomplishing professional goals will definitely contribute to happiness. However, relying only on those accomplishments for your happiness is guaranteed to make the rest of your life feel miserable. And if your negative experiences outweigh the positive, then can you really claim to be happy?
Make sure to fill your life with as many small positive experiences as you can. Live in the moment, for the moment, and enjoy your present as much as possible. Even if that means you take longer to achieve your professional goals, what matters most is that you’re enjoying the hours, days, weeks, and months that you’re currently living. Doing that will never make the years feel wasted!
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