Happiness Can Be A Bit Tricky To Define!
As an example: Would winning the lottery or becoming a paraplegic be more likely to bring you happiness? Now it seems very obvious that the day after, you’d much rather have won the lottery. But they’ve done studies of both of these groups–the lottery winners and people who have become paraplegics. And what they find is after one year, they both rate their lives as the same amount of HAPPINESS. Now, this is called the “impact bias.” The fact that we think, obviously, the lottery winners can be much happier, is due to our tendency to overrate both the intensity and the duration of the happiness that we’ll experience when we get what we want.
Now this wouldn’t be a big problem if we’re just a small group of lottery winners, but it’s all of us, right? I’m sure you’ve had the experience. Maybe you went out for a job or got a promotion that you were desperate for. And when you finally got it, you spent a few weeks really happy with it, and then, it was just everyday drudgery, right? It stunk. Or there was a product that you needed, it was the iPhone, a car, a new watch. And for the first couple of weeks, yes, every single time you touched it, you felt good. But then, after a while, it just started to blend in with the rest of the things in your life.
This is very common. The things that we pursue take a lot of time and energy, but the happiness that we get out of them is minuscule. Now, this is a trap that I want to help you avoid. I spent, literally, years studying happiness, the people who have it, the people who don’t and then applying those lessons to my own life, to see which actually work from experience.
The Happiness Ladder
And what I can tell you from my own experience is that there’s this thing called The Happiness Ladder. And there are five rungs to it. If you focus on the bottom rungs of this ladder, you’re almost guaranteed to not find happiness no matter how successful you are in getting the things you pursue. When you focus on the upper rungs of the ladder, you’re almost guaranteed to find happiness that lasts. So, what I want to do is, hopefully, in this video, help you skip ahead to those higher levels so that you don’t get stuck with the things that are basically guaranteed to make you live a miserable life.
The Bottom Rung
So the first thing is this, the bottom of the rung, that we all tend to start with when we’re younger is “stuff.” When I was little, I wanted the right Power Ranger. Then when I got the right Power Ranger, I wanted the new video game, and after the video games, it was the car, and on and on and on. And the truth is, stuff is nice. These things made me happy. But none of them, no matter how many video games or Power Rangers I had, led to any sort of lasting happiness. And that’s true of all stuff. Stuff is nice, it’s necessary, but it cannot create lasting happiness. And the problem with stuff is that it’s very, very easily corrupted. There’s so much advertising, we oftentimes will buy stuff to brand ourselves. And this is where we’re almost guaranteed unhappiness. This is the negative one on this ladder. If you’re buying things like an expensive brand in clothes, jewelry, cars, electronics, whatever, for the sole purpose of being perceived in a certain way by your peers, then you are in trouble.
Because, then, your happiness is dependent on the opinion of other people, and that is always a precarious position to be in that will lead to unhappiness. So, as quickly as we can, most of us realized that we need to get out of stuff if we want to be happy.
The Second Rung
We need to move to the next level. And the next level for many of us is “experience,” right? So, all of a sudden, rather than spending our time to accumulate things, we want to just, we want to see the world, and I see experience gone wrong most often in people who are first-time backpackers. They want to travel but they don’t want to do anything deeply.
They want to go for 30 days and see 25 different cities, right? They want to see every monument, take every picture, eat a local dish once, and then, get back on the airplane as soon as they can so that they can tell their friends all about it. The experience, again, just becomes a proxy for the thing. It’s about branding yourself. This is when experience goes wrong. Experiences can be amazing, just like stuff. I love escape rooms. I don’t take pictures of all of them. I do them for me and to spend time with my friends. If you had to do it, do an escape room, they’re amazing. But, if you are focused on the experience simply for the Instagram photo, that’s a problem. Not long ago, I went on a hike with a friend of mine, and it was a 45-minute hike, and all the way up, she complained. It was the heat, it was everything was wrong with this hike; we didn’t have enough water, the time of day. We finally get to the top and then for three minutes, she was all smiles when the camera came out. She took a yoga pose, it’s this pose, it’s that pose, different combinations of people; probably 60 different pictures and then posted a couple of them, and felt good about those pictures.
If that reminds you of your self or anyone you know, you’re spending your life for the photo that you get or the story that you get, cut it out. You are guaranteed to be unhappy because you are going to spend 45 minutes feeling miserable, and then, three happy, and then, finally living vicariously through the likes that you get on social media. That cannot lead to happiness.
The Third Rung
After the experience, we tend to move up to the next level, and I see a lot of people here. This is where I spend a lot of time myself. It’s great–GROWTH. So, I first, the first time I went abroad was when I was in college, and I did exactly what I said. I went to Spain and took all of my student loan money and I traveled like crazy. In three months, I saw six different countries, went to a ton of different cities, got tons of pictures, saw wonders of the world. It was really cool. When I got back, I couldn’t speak Spanish. I didn’t really know anything about the culture, and I had not made a single Spanish friend. So after that, I said, “You know what? I’m gonna do something differently.” This time I’m going to Costa Rica. It’s a way less exciting Standing Program in a small town. It’s not even on the beach and I’m going to enroll directly into the local university. Now, I don’t have as many pictures. I didn’t see any wonders of the world.
I didn’t leave the country in the 10 months that I was there. But while I did that, I learned Spanish, I learned to dance salsa, and I made local friends. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And even more than that, the person that I became, the fact that I can now enjoy going out salsa dancing, years later, I can communicate with someone in Spanish. That impacts my life often. Growth is the first rung that I think leads to lasting, on-going happiness. But it’s not the end all, be all because I got kind of obsessed with this for a time. Self-improvement can be addictive. If you’re on this channel, maybe you’ve gone through all of our videos here, like “I got to get better. I got to get better.” I know that feeling, but I’ve had days where they were perfect from a self-improvement standpoint. I spent no time doing TV, no time on the bad things, and like 10, 12 hours solid practicing music, language skills, building my business, going to the gym, all good things for me.
But I still felt a little bit empty at the end of the day. And what I realized is that every single day that I have needs to have some form of connection or contribution.
The Fourth Rung
Here’s the fourth rung, and I think that this is where people really, really want. The whole thing with the branding and the status, a lot of that is really just a stepping stone for what we truly desire, which is to connect with other people. But we don’t think we’re enough, so we think if we have these clothes, then we’ll be enough.
If we have interesting stories, then we’ll be enough. Or in my case, if I am a cool enough, well-rounded enough person, with all of these how be’s and activities that I’m good at, I will be enough to connect. And what I’m here to tell you is that you can shortcut that. You can connect. You can contribute today. Your time, your attention, your praise, your focus, that can be enough for some people, right? To make friendships, that is plenty. Now continue to grow. Continue to accumulate some things, to have those experiences. Those are all important. What we oftentimes forget is that it’s all really to share with other people. This thing that I’m telling you. This happiness ladder comes from something that I wrote in 2013, and it sat sitting on my computer hard drive for all this time. It’s only now that I get to share it, and yes, it was nice to learn from my self, and it was nice to apply it to my own life, but I’m sure that the comments below, the fact that I get to share this with you is gonna bring me so much more lasting joy now that I get to share it.
So find a way to contribute, to connect, and realize that everything that you do in the intermedium, oftentimes is for that as well. I get that there are solitary people, but the truth is we do need some form of giving back to our community. Even if it’s to the environment, and not to humans, if it’s to animals, we need to connect in some way. So focus there. But like I said, there are five rungs, and all the first four are focused outwardly. The way you orient yourself, where do you place your action?
The Fifth Rung Is About Mindset.
And the mindset shift is to APPRECIATION, because the truth is, oftentimes, everything that we’re trying to get were focused on what we don’t have, and if you can shift your mindset simply from not focusing on what I lack or what I have, and shift it from, not focusing on the bottom of that ladder–with the stuff–but to the connection and the growth, that is the shift that will lead to the most lasting happiness. We have access to this at all times of our life. Even in the annoying moments, we’re standing in line and it’s 20 minutes to get out of the food store, you can focus on the fact that you’re 20 minutes late. What you don’t have is your time. Or you can focus on the fact that you have food surrounding you from all parts of the world and you live, literally, better than kings did 100 years ago because they couldn’t get grapes, right? They’re on the other side of the planet.
So, depending on what you compare yourself to, if you’re alive today, if you’re watching YouTube, if you’re on the internet, you literally live better than kings did not very long ago. You are in the 0.1% of lucky people who have ever lived. So no matter what’s going on in your life, I know that there will be things that knock you down, things that suck, reasons to be unhappy.
But there’s always a reason to bounce back if you shift your focus to what you have compared to what you don’t. So, I hope you find that helpful. I hope that you can focus on what you appreciate. If you take one thing from this right now, write down or say in your head, one thing that is common to your life that is little, that maybe you don’t notice all the time, that you appreciate right now. And I think that will make you have a much better day, and if you can keep it up, that habit will give you a much happier life.
As found on Youtube