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Increasing happiness over time

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Increasing happiness over time

Scott Miker

A lot of people put happiness at the end of a long journey as the prize for completion.  They assume happiness will come upon reaching their goal.

They say they will be happy when they finally meet someone special.  They say they will be happy when their children finally move out, get a job, or get married. They say they will be happy when they can finally retire.

But happiness isn’t something that becomes permanent as you reach a major goal.  The happiness felt during those victories is often just as temporary as other happy moments that always seem too fleeting.

But for some reason when we envision happiness in the future, we picture it as a lasting feeling of contentment.  And we always put off happiness until we get to our destination.

I did this for much of my life until I started reading books and watching videos by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Dyer had a way of explaining that happiness isn’t a destination, happiness is a way of life.  We choose to be happiness.  We do this by letting go of unhappiness.

This message had a very profound impact on my life because until that point I was holding on to unhappiness and didn’t even realize it.  I didn’t let myself feel happiness because I just couldn’t let go of all of the miserable thoughts floating through my head. 

His message was simple.  Learn to let go.  Stop trying to hold on to everything and start letting it flow through your life.

Everyone has a happiness set point.  Researchers have realized for decades that even major changes to someone will usually result in short term spikes and dips but eventually settle in to the same range of happiness they felt prior to the event.

This is why lottery winners seem ecstatic at first but over time become about as happy as they were prior to winning the lottery.  This is why someone can go through a painful divorce and slowly get back to being as happy as they were prior to that experience.

So waiting for the destination is just waiting for another event to spike the happiness levels.  This is certainly temporary.  Just as we feel joy when we book our vacation and set out for some fun and relaxation but then have to get back home and back to work as the happiness from the trip starts to fade. 

So if you are ultimately trying to adjust your happiness set point you can’t do so with events.  You have to do it from a systematic standpoint.  You have to find ways to change the patterns, structures, and mental models in your life. 

That is why I gained so much from Dyer’s wisdom.  By taking the idea of letting go of unhappiness and forming contentment into a pattern, I started to slowly increase my happiness set point.  Do it once and all you will get is a temporary rise with an eventual fall.  But find a way to do it over and over again and you will notice your happiness set point slowly rising and staying elevated. 

Taking the systems and habits approach to improvement and finding wisdom such as Dyer’s can help to slowly change your outlook on life.  You will start to become much more content and happy.  You will also realize that happiness can be found alongside hard work, sadness, struggles etc. where previously those things were mutually exclusive.  That is how you become happier, by slowly and methodically increasing your happiness set point over time.