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Progress and improvement mean happiness

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.  

Progress and improvement mean happiness

Scott Miker

Years ago I realized that by starting on a journey to constantly improve, I was becoming significantly happier in life. I was working harder than ever before and continuously doing things that I previously hated, like exercising.

I start to put it together that happiness for me means working towards a better version of myself. As long as I am making progress and improving, I am happy.

Now I notice that the opposite is also true. It is when I get stuck and don’t feel like I’m making good decisions and getting better that I start to feel less happy. I recently had a surgery that forced me to take a break from many of my routines and in doing so I started to slowly lose all the progress that I had made.

In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, the author says, “Slow and steady improvement at anything makes you feel that you are on the right track. The feeling of progress stimulates your body to create the chemicals that make you feel happy.”

But how many people disregard improvement when they explore their own happiness. Instead of spending time exercising to get better, they grab a greasy burger or a beer. Instead of reading they watch TV. Instead of trying to get better they simply look for instant gratification.

It makes sense to start to shift your thinking about happiness. If you start to see happiness through the lens of improvement then you will start to do more of the work in order to succeed in the long term.

This will make it easier to keep improving. The progress will inspire you to keep at it and do whatever you can to become a better version of yourself. As you do, more happiness will come.

This creates a feedback loop. As you work and make progress you feel happier. As you feel happier it will inspire you to keep working and making progress, causing you to feel happier still.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly fly off the charts on the happiness scale. There will still be setbacks. There will still be negative events in your life. There will still be times when your best effort doesn’t reach the level that you had hoped.

But through it all if you maintain the mindset of slow and steady improvement you can remain happy and content but still work to get even better. To me this illustrates the difference between being content and being complacent.

Being content means you don’t need any more to be happy. You still keep working but not to get rid of unhappy feelings. You keep working because it feels better to keep working than to quit.

Being complacent means that you feel there isn’t a point to improving. Instead of trying to get better you sit around waiting for the world to change to better suite you. When it doesn’t you feel like a victim.

So if you want to be happier, work to improve. Work to make slow progress towards a better you and as you do, you will likely see your level of happiness increasing.