Happiness is a state of mind, or, if you like, an attitude. Overcoming the myths of happiness might make life seem more complicated, but it’s the only way to stop interfering with our own potential to be happy. Happiness has many different shapes and colors. If you are beating off creditors, your partner is sick with huge medical bills, and your child will have to drop out of college if you can’t help with the tuition, extreme happiness is winning the lottery! If you are an author, happiness is curling up with your laptop and immersing yourself in your imagination. I accept that everyone can be happy, but not everyone wants to be!
Happiness is definitely an inside job. It starts and ends with the way we think about, and respect, ourselves, and others. It is seeking, but not grasping, It is the calm assurance that there is always a way through and beyond every difficulty.
Things that we think will make us happy never make us happy for as long as we think they will. Conversely, negative life events and challenges don’t have as enduring an impact on our happiness as we believe they will, either.
Myths of Happiness 1: Money Can’t Buy Happiness.
Well, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy lots of things that contribute mightily to happiness.
As the current financial downturn is making vividly clear, money contributes to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of it brings much more unhappiness than possessing it brings happiness. (Good health is the same way – it’s easy to take money or health for granted until you don’t have it anymore.) People’s biggest worries include financial anxiety, health concerns, job insecurity, and having to do tiring and boring chores. Spent right, money can go a long way to relieving these problems.
Also, if spent wisely, money can help you boost your happiness. For example, philosophers and scientists agree that having strong ties to other people is the KEY to happiness, and money can pay for a plane ticket to visit your sister, a babysitter for a date night with your sweetheart, or pizza and beer for a Super Bowl Party with friends. Novelty and challenge will make you happier, and money can pay for a trip to France, for a drawing class, for a mountain bike.
Is money essential for developing strong ties to other people or finding ways to challenge yourself? Of course not. But money can make it easier. Some of the best things in life aren’t free.
Money can’t buy happiness. It is true that money cannot buy real happiness. It can buy material things and comforts that may be a source to happiness, but the real happiness lies in leading a life that is peaceful and with your loved ones around.
Myth of Happiness 2: Happiness is the achievement of your dreams and desires
Dare to dream…. they say! If you can dream it, you can achieve it… they say! You have to know what you want and want it bad enough… they say! And only then can you be happy… they say! But what they don’t say is that desiring is craving, and that any satisfaction from the achievement of any desire/craving can only ever be temporary before a new desire/craving knocks on the door. Sometimes it’s called addiction, and happiness is not the satisfaction of an addiction. How do you know? Watch for the fear that sits at the heart of all desire, and watch for the emptiness that sits and grows at the center of the temporary satisfaction when any desire is fulfilled. It may sometimes be a miniscule amount of emptiness but it’s always there.
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Myth of Happiness 3: You’ll Be Happier If You Insist on “The Best.”
Maybe not. There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers (yes, satisficers) make a decision once their criteria are met; when they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision; even if they see a bicycle that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they’ve examined every option.
Studies suggest that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they’re often anxious about their choices. They find the research process exhausting, yet can’t let themselves settle for anything but the best.
Myth of Happiness 4: Happiness is always in the future
Otherwise known as ‘delay’. It is the language of, “I’ll be happy… when we get married… when we have a family… when the kids have left home… when we retire…” It becomes a habit to see happiness always tomorrow and seldom today, seldom now. Until there is the realization that there is only today, that there is only now, true happiness will always be as elusive as an oasis in the desert is an illusion to someone dying of thirst. You may think you see it up ahead, shimmering in the distance, you may believe you are making your way towards it, but you never arrive.
Myth of Happiness 5: You Can’t Be Happy After A Certain Age
Just because you’re in your 40s it doesn’t mean your best years are now behind you. Life can be enjoyed to its fullest potential at any age. Unfortunately, a lot of people wrongfully assume that the feeling of happiness decreases as we get older. It’s certainly not true. Seniority comes with great benefits. You have all the time in the world to travel, find a fulfilling hobby, and do things you never had the chance to do when you were 20.
Myth of Happiness 6: Happiness is dependent on how much you can accumulate
Believe this and your mind will likely sound like an old record with the needle stuck in the same groove and the only song that emerges is Money Money Money or More More More. The ‘more’ you have the more you want, and the more you worry about what you think you have, the more you worry that you might not get even more, and the more you worry about losing what you have AND not yet got. And this is happiness?
Myth of Happiness 7: A Successful Career Makes Us Happy
Another myth debunked! A successful career leaves no room for relaxation, and although we make a lot of money and we live in a beautiful home, we don’t have time to enjoy those material things as much as we’d like to. Working 12 hours a day for a whole week and driving a Bentley makes other people assume that we’re happy, but we’re not. We’re just exhausted and we’re not realizing that life is too short to be workaholics.
Myth of Happiness 8: Happiness Doesn’t Affect Performance
People are wrong to assume that happiness doesn’t affect performance. The good news is we can use those feelings to our own advantage. Studies have proven that positive physicians are more precise, happier sales individuals have greater chances of closing a good deal and optimistic athletes can recuperate from failure a lot faster.
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Myth of Happiness 9: I can’t be happy when…
…I’ll never be thin.
…I’ll never have kids.
…I’ll never be a doctor or an astronaut.
We all have dreams that we’ve harbored since the early years of our lives, but we often have flawed assumptions about whether we can still be happy despite not achieving those dreams. Psychologists argue that to be truly unburdened by regrets involves freeing ourselves from our “lost possible selves”—the neurosurgeon self, the grandparent self, the small-business owner self. To do this, we need to reflect on our lost promises to gain a new perspective, which in turn, enables us to understand ourselves and our lives better, and to set new priorities and envision new futures for ourselves.
Editors Note: Think back to the moment when you were hired at your current job—you probably felt a big boost of well-being, and you were excited by the opportunities and challenges of your new role. Unfortunately, the excitement we feel happens less and less as we turn our minds toward the countless daily hassles, uplifts, and distractions of life. We begin to feel our novel and stimulating work experiences have simply become our “new normal.”