Have you heard of this? Synthetic happiness. Does it sound even remotely enticing? No, not really? Well, to be entirely honest with you, it sort of put me off as well. But by the time you’ve reached the ending of this presentation, I promise you will agree with at least a couple of statements you hear there about happiness.
As Dan Gilbert, the speaker behind this incredible talk, puts it – we think of happiness as necessarily being a natural, spontaneous occurrence. But this is so rarely the case. And for this reason, so many of us spend a big portion of our existences being unhappy. Our expectations about what would make us happy are the ones that truly lead to our unhappiness. Just because we don’t get what we wanted, it does not mean that our lives are ruined. Just because we’ve had something bad happen to us, this does not translate into our impossibility to ever be happy from now on. Happiness really is what you make it into.
There are so many examples of people who have had awful things happen to them, who have experienced terrible losses – losing all their fortunes, losing their reputations, losing the ability to walk…And yet they calmly and serenely state that they are happier now than back when they had money, fame and mobility in their legs…How can this be true? Surely they must be promoting darn out lies! Well, they’re not.
Not getting what we want can make us just as happy as getting it. Synthetic happiness is just as real and as valuable as the natural one. That’s not to say that we should not strive to make our lives better or to become ourselves more than we are at present. But falling into the pits of depression if we suffer a loss or if we don’t get what we wanted is the biggest mistake we could ever make because it will prevent us from seeing the good in our lives – the existing one and the one to come.
Adam Smith said it wonderfully in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:
“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another…. Some of those situation may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with the passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.”
Food for though.