Are Your Happiness Goals Too High?

On the road to well-being, says James Baraz, embrace all your diverse feelings.

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In our competitive culture, we usually think “more is better.” Being Number One, winning at all costs, and “having the most” is deeply ingrained in our psyche as real success. This model of going for the max is often erroneously applied to our own well-being or happiness goals. People mistakenly think intense delight is a sign that their attempt at awakening joy is truly successful.

However, when we look for bells and whistles as indications of true happiness we’re misunderstanding a very important principle: Setting a high bar of intense happiness works against true well-being. Although I’m all for enjoying peak experiences when they arise, measuring that ideal against a moderate level of okayness can easily render this moment as “not good enough.”

Happy people are creative too. But at some point only going for the gusto can be counter-productive if you’re trying to access your muse.

We find what we look for. Science calls this phenomenon the brain’s “confirmation bias.” Your brain tends to see what it believes to be true and misses whatever doesn’t confirm its hypothesis. If you don’t think you experience much true happiness because you’re holding an image that it should be a peak experience…