Happiness Is Only A Vacation Destination

Human beings possess extraordinary superpowers.

The problem – we don’t know we possess them.

Our psychological immune systems are extraordinary. Getting used to bad stuff is part of our DNA. Author Dan Gilbert completed extensive research on this subject. Bad feelings from negative events don’t turn out as rotten as our dire expectations.

We overestimate our reactions to positive events. Most believe the more money we make, the happier we’ll be. Going from making 40k-70k moves the needle. Unfortunately escalating salaries to $150k or more changes little.

Data: Jebb et. al.

This is called Hedonic Adaptation. Happiness is impossible all the time. It would threaten our very existence. We eventually establish a baseline and move onto seeking out the next great thing.

We’re also terrible predicting reactions to bad events.

Why is our impact bias even worse when forecasting bad events?

Why don’t we realize we’ll rebound quicker from bad events than we think?

Why are we happier when we get the opposite of what we want?

We’re terrific rationalizers.

Think of a teenage breakup creating unparalleled drama. After the crying and hysterics subside, the psychological immune system kicks into high hear.

My friends didn’t like him/her.

He/she was kind of annoying.

I have my freedom back.

Gilbert found in his analysis that rationalization creates the same or greater happiness than the temporary joy we receive from positive experiences. It’s also longer-lasting.

This holds true during the depths of human misery.

Losing a child ranks near the top of the list After this terrible experience, parents rebound. Studies show when parents are asked to list the good and bad resulting from this trauma, they tend to list more positive experiences than negative.

We speak from experience. Our son was diagnosed with Cancer a few years ago. We thought our world ended.  We went through some unbelievably traumatic times before he was cured. Amazingly, much good came from this nightmare.

We remember the kindness of people. The stranger who sent a Friendlies gift certificate. The sprinkler company who installed our system for free when finding out our situation. My young nephew who sent a brand new X-box.  The unbelievable empathy of all the Doctors and Nurses. The list is endless. Things like this supersede memories hospital stays and chemo treatments.

These are invaluable lessons for the dark days of 2020. We must never underestimate our abilities to cope and adjust throughout the worst of times. It wouldn’t be surprising if many people when asked in the future, find more positive than negative experiences.

Mohnish Pabrai has a great take.

Man is a very clever animal. I have been incredibly surprised by the human ingenuity I have witnessed in response to COVID-19 in the last few weeks. My best guess is that lockdowns will start to be lifted in the next 3-4 weeks (or less) and will be almost completely gone in the next 8-12 weeks. We won’t be going to U2 concerts anytime soon and we may have (wristbands) identifying which category we fall in (immune or COVID-19-Free as of xxx date). And we may be wearing masks in public for a while. And I think we’ll be nearly 100% back to normal in 12 months. That U2 concert will be sold out and completely legal and allowed 18 months from now. I hope I can get tickets!

Many will recall these facets rather than their confinement and fear.

Learning how to be more creative, resourceful, and less wasteful.

Putting life in proper perspective.

Helping others less fortunate.

Working for the common good instead of selfish pleasure.

Our superpowers will get us to the other side.

We’re going to be O.K., despite our best efforts at predicting a bleak future.


Source: The Happiness Lab Podcast – The Unhappy Millionaire, Dr Laurie Santos




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