Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Your Happiness Has Boundaries

One of the most striking findings from the booming new field of happiness research has been that people have fairly sticky baselines.

With only a few exceptions, people tend to return to the same level of happiness (baseline happiness which is much like baseline weight) over time, regardless of what happens to them.

Dan Gilbert, the leading happiness researcher and author of the book, Stumbling On Happiness, was obsessed with this question:

If people seem to end up just as happy when things don’t go as they wished, then why knock ourselves out striving for the outcomes we think will make us the happiest?

He came up with  three possible reasons why it’s still a good idea to keep striving for happiness despite the empirical evidence that it doesn’t make much difference:

(1) It’s possible that the people who say they’re equally happy have only lowered their expectations of what maximum happiness is.

(2) It’s also possible that the reason why the people who didn’t get what they wanted are just as happy, on average, as the people who did get what they wanted.

(3) There’s a lot of evidence that your happiness immune system (the one that convinces you you’re happy even though you didn’t get what you wanted - or thought you wanted, i.e., 'miswanted') kicks in when you don’t have any chance of changing the situation anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! I completely agree with #1 and am intrigued by the third. Its almost like the body doses you to an equilibrium with your environment.

    Thanks for the heads up on the book, Im going to add it to the que on my audible list!