Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wherever you go, there you are

No matter where you go, there you are, said Confucius. 
happy in the garden

Just finished a poignant article about a woman who lost nearly half her body weight but not all her troubles.  She had bariatric surgery, and believed, as her surgeon insisted, that life would be so much easier after she got want she thought she really wanted-- a skinny body.  But she found that the insecurities did not fall off with the weight.

A lot of us are like this.  We think when we get that one problem dealt with, we will finally be happy. 
Once we have finally attain the right "X".  Substitute for X:  partner, job, weight, place to live.

Wherever you go, there you are.  You, with the same imperfections, strengths, and history you had before.  You can run, and you can't hide, and when you get "there", the common denominator between you and comfort arrives with you. 

Last week, author and Harvard professor Dan Gilbert lectured at Oregon State University about his research on happiness.  You can hear some of his tenets at his Ted talk.  Think you know what will make you happy?  Dr. Gilbert's findings suggest you are wrong.  He found that many people overestimate what circumstances will lead them to golden joy-- and what will make them miserable.  The good news:  Most of us are far more resilient than we believe.  75% of us will recover, or at least be OK, two years after something we assume will ruin us.  "We are not the fragile field of flowers we believe ourselves to be,"  Gilbert says.  And conversely, we are also not going to be saved by that X factor we think is between us and our ultimate happiness.  People routinely overpredict what will make them happy in the future.  Whether it is that new car, tenure, new job or new lover, we predictably end up not a whole lot happier after the initial high of achievement than we were to begin with.
the constant, changing moon brings me ridiculous joy

So what does make us happy?
Gilbert noted a few things.  Experiences, not stuff bring more lasting pleasure.  We will remember and cherish that trip overseas more often than that new piece of bling.  And bling connected to relationship will always be more meaningful than just bling bought, because of the memories brought with it.  People are happiest when they are engaged, not passive recipients of objects or experiences.  In one replicated study, people given $20 were divided into two groups.  One was told to spend it on something enjoyable for themselves, and one told to spend it making someone else happy.  Guess which one reported more and longer lasting satisfaction with the experience?
seeing old friends and hearing good music=happy
And it's frequency, not intensity, that's the best predictor of overall life satisfaction.  Small and common joys trump far-apart epiphanies.    A sense of meaning and community also make a huge difference.  For a great overview of happiness research presented in an intriguing and digestible format, watch the wonderful documentary "Happy".   

I'm 24 hours late in marking International Happiness Day.   But it's never too late to figure out how to bring more satisfaction to those hours you have left on Earth.  Don't put it off.

Related blogs:
http://www.janasvoboda.org/2011/05/troubles-and-happiness.htm
http://www.janasvoboda.org/2011/01/resolution-20-more-experiences-less.html
http://www.janasvoboda.org/2011/01/resolution-18-notice-whats-going-well.html

Quote of the day:  "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."  Tom Robbins, American author
Song of the day:

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