Four reasons you aren’t happy, and the one path to happiness

Do you remember the sound of dial-up?  The chances are if you are not in at least your mid to late thirties, you probably don’t remember that excruciating pain associated with getting on the Internet.  A Pew Research Poll in 2008, stated that less than 10% of adults are using a dial-up connection to get on the internet.

This morning as I was doing a quick google search of the word Happiness, it returned  580,000,000 million associations to the word in 1.42 seconds.  This would have taken me at least ten to fifteen minutes in the early 2000’s.

I recently finished a book titled “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. He is a best-selling author and speaker around behavioral economics.  His research and studies have all revolved around decision-making and why we as humans make the decisions we make and why we are increasingly, according the CDC, becoming less happier as a nation, and in the world for that matter, than ever before.

It is to nobody’s surprise, especially mine, that happiness is an elusive word and it is a word, a condition of being, that all of us are looking to have more of.

In this book, Schwartz cites a person by the name of  Alex Michalos, who argues that people establish standards of satisfaction and happiness based on the assessment of three gaps:

  • the gap between what one has and wants,
  • the gap between what one has and thinks others like oneself have,
  • the gap between what one has and the best one has had in the past

The author, Schwartz, goes on to add a fourth gap, which is the gap between what one has and what we expect.

Back to the dial-up thing.  The chances are you are reading this blog on your smart phone, tablet, or maybe a desktop computer that is connected to the internet at all times. If for some reason, your connection runs just a little bit slow. You have almost zero patience to wait a few seconds as this page loads.  You wont read it. Bad for me.

As I started off by saying.  When I first started getting on the internet it would take several minutes to use the internet. It took me 1.42 seconds to get five hundred and eighty million returns on the word happiness, if it would have taken thirty seconds, I probably wouldn’t have included that information in this blog, because I would have said it isn’t that important to the message.

As Michalos points out, the gap between the best I have had, to the best I have had in the past is in play here.  Comparing the speed of which I can get on the internet and do a search today, versus the speed of which I did it back in the early 2000’s. This is a comparison that makes todays standards look amazing and I am happy with the speed.  However, I am not comparing the speed to what it was in the early 2000’s.  No, I am comparing the speed to what was the best I ever had.

If tomorrow I do a search and it takes one minute instead of the 1.42 seconds it took today, I will complain that it is taking too long. To state it simply, it is hard for all of us to go backwards in anything in our life.  Once we have something that we consider to be better than what we have had in the past, it is hard to go back to whatever that standard was in the past.

This is really the American way.  We are constantly seeking for better and we will constantly compare todays success, tools, resources, etc. to yesterdays lack or standard.

I currently drive a 2006 Lexus LS 430.  Now this car isn’t even made any more.  However, the standards and features it has have only been ungraded by a thousand, and that is probably an understatement.  The next time I go and buy a car, I will compare all features of a new car to the standards I have gotten used to in my car. Most cars today, have caught up with some of the luxuries a 2006 Lexus has.  However, it will be difficult for me to drive anything else. No offense to you here if you drive one.  But lets just say a Kia or something similar, it would be difficult for me to drive one of those cars and I would be less happy about driving it, because of what I have had in the past.

They say once you fly first class, it is hard to ever fly coach again.

These gaps are real and I can see how they impact me on a daily basis.  We all compare ourselves to others that we consider to be like ourselves. I can think of a situation right now, where I have a friend who thinks they are better, or should be better, than others at a particular activity.  Because of their conditioning and consistency of the activity, they believe that others shouldn’t be above them at performing this activity.  And when others are, it causes unhappiness for them and it is obvious to anyone who knows the situation.

Maybe you can relate.

We all know the gap that exists between what we want and what we have.  This is the one everyone struggles with on a daily basis. Look around yourself.  A kid comes to mind.  They always want more, and nowadays, they think they are entitled to more.  So this unhappiness gap is created.

We have all been on a trip, eaten at a restaurant, or attended a concert or some kind of an event, and we left that event not satisfied with the purchase. The reason for this is because we had higher expectations. Since the expectations weren’t met, there is some regret, remorse, and unhappiness attached to the experience we had.  These are hard to overcome. That is why restaurants have to continue to invest in better customer service and better food options.

The reason I wrote this blog was to really point out the four gaps that we are all faced with every single day and how they either hurt our ability to be happy, or if you have a surplus in all of the four areas, lead to more happiness. I am not sure we can ever really solve these gaps.  I believe the best we can do is strive to manage them the best we can, to seek happiness in everything we do.  And the best way to find that happiness is to always keep things in the perspective.

It may take me thirty seconds, or maybe even minutes, to get a google search return. Instead of getting upset about it. I need to remember that back in the day, it took me at least  quadruple that amount of time to even get on the internet to do the search.

To your success and your future.



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