Don’t Try To Be Happy

Don’t Try To Be Happy

May 3, 2019

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My student had just finished the match, and I was shocked.

He wasn’t devastated.

He’d just lost a match to a great player in front of a significant amount of people by a lopsided score.

And he was fine. Not really happy, of course, but perfectly fine.

Other people I know would’ve behaved badly.

So why was he okay?

Everyone is searching for happiness these days. There’s a whole industry built around it.

But what if searching for happiness is a terrible strategy?

There’s a big difference between happiness and satisfaction. One brings pain and one brings peace. But the difference isn’t talked about.

Happiness is a temporary emotion. It’s how you feel right now with no guarantee you’ll feel the same way ten minutes from now. It’s a hard place to get to and an impossible place to stay in.

If you believe the studies, then we’re facing a mental health epidemic that’s never been seen before. What’s the possible cause?

First, we’re trying to be happy.

The quickest way to get there, we think, is our smartphone.

So we click on something to make us happy. Maybe we find it and then move on when it fades.

Or maybe we don’t find it and move on to some new potential fix.

While searching for happiness, we’re constantly swiping and clicking. The result? Bad attention span (poor productivity) and bad connection to others (loneliness).

Trying to find happy made us very sad.

Same with athletes.

A perfect stroke makes her happy. But the next bad one causes depression. So she tries harder to do the next one perfectly, and that one isn’t perfect either. More depression. It’s not long until she’s crying while shaking hands after a loss.

By searching for a moment of happiness, losing and sadness became the end result.

Satisfaction, however, is something totally different.

Satisfaction takes it all into account.

Satisfaction is based on continual, hard work. It’s based on a committed process.

The moment-to-moment results don’t matter when we seek satisfaction. We know we’ll lose and we know we’ll have unhappy moments along the way.

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that we never stop trying, we never give up. And at the end, we’ll be at peace. We did our job the best we could. There’s no sadness in that, only serenity.

That’s why my student wasn’t upset.

Honestly, that match he lost was the best he’d ever played in his life. At that time, his opponent just had too much firepower–and that was fine.

He did everything he could. He improved that day.

He wasn’t happy, but he was satisfied.

He was ready to play the next day rather than roaming a mall in Cleveland blinded by self-loathing.

Forget happiness and go for long-term satisfaction.

There’s no downside in that.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.