Obstacles to Happiness and Contentment
There’s a basic flaw in the search for happiness, in that it doesn’t really exist. What I mean is, happiness is not really out there waiting to be found, it’s more a state of mind. Then again, perhaps happiness isn’t really about having fun so much as about being content? Yes, I know happiness and contentment can be defined differently, but one tends to relate to the other.
Bright and sunny dispositions aren't something everyone is born with, but it doesn’t mean that happiness or contentment is elusive. Younger people however do tend to be more unsettled. I can certainly remember chasing a career path, working to attain a home, acquire objects, and do things like travel. Did it make me happy? Well yes, I suppose it did in its way, although in truth I can’t recall ever sitting back to reflect on it too deeply.
Youth is often a restless time, beset by discontentment, the desire for movement of some sort, and ways to offset boredom. As I’ve got older and have more time to reflect I can more easily see that happiness is really just one part of a larger picture. Longer-lasting contentment perhaps comes more easily with age but it’s still relative. Perhaps with time we find it easier to brush off criticism and the things that threatened us in youth no longer hold the same power? We certainly retain a bias towards negativity – that is we tend to view negative experiences more seriously than positive experiences – and the prevailing wisdom suggests we need around three times more positive experiences in order to flourish.
How is it that our experiences have such varying effects on our lives? We could potentially spend six months slopping around on some tropical island yet evaluate it just as highly, or less so, than a brief catch-up with an old friend. It seems that the time spent on activities is much less influential than we might care to think. Much more influential is the intensity of a peak experience and the way it ends. In effect this means it’s always worth tackling the least appealing things first and ending any work on a positive note. Going back to my own experiences we often wrapped up the working week with ‘cake Friday’, or we'd wander down to a local café. It’s a conscious effort to finish things up on a positive note and helps to cement team spirit.
And on that note I’ll conclude this Sharepost. Next time, I’ll be exploring how we might go about resolving obstacles to happiness and contentment.