The Relationship Between Happiness and Accomplishments
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of time pursuing your dreams and accomplishing goals that matter to you. These dreams may be personal, family-related, or even career-related. You’ve spent your time and energy preparing yourself to take on new challenges and accomplish more than ever before in life, and then something happens… As the years go by, you look back at all of the accomplishments you have under your belt, but somehow you just aren’t as happy as you thought you would be. So what gives?
Achievements do not equal happiness
Many of us have a particular goal in mind, one that will bring happiness once we achieve it. But by planning our lives around a future accomplishment, we risk missing out on other valuable experiences along the way. It’s important to note that achievements don’t necessarily equal happiness—we can have an impact without making it big, and just because you aren’t famous doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved great things. Numerous studies have shown that achievements, while they can make us feel good in the moment, are only a fleeting source of happiness. Once you’ve reached a certain level of accomplishment (for example, once you’ve built a successful business or landed your dream job), further accomplishments don’t lead to increased happiness.
The reason that so many people sacrifice their happiness in exchange for achievements is that they think once they achieve a goal, then they’ll be happy. But studies have shown that once you do reach a goal, your underlying level of happiness doesn’t rise. You simply get used to whatever new situation you find yourself in. In fact, research has revealed that as soon as you acquire something new (like a big promotion at work or even a large lottery win), within just two months, your levels of happiness will return to what they were before you acquired it. Another study found that most people assume success is going to make them feel good about themselves; instead, it made them feel anxious and less confident about their abilities.
What would you do if you had unlimited time?
One of my favorite questions to ask a person is what would you do if you had unlimited time? Research shows that a lot of people feel they’d be happier if they had more time. Whether it’s down to their job, their commute, or just life in general, finding more time is a pretty big dream for many people. But it’s important to remember that although you’re working toward accomplishing your goals, those goals are ultimately meant to make you happy. So what if you could reach your goal today? How would it affect your happiness? If given unlimited time, how would your life change? Perhaps you’d travel more or spend more time with family—and these things are great! But might there be some other things on your list?
What would you do if you were totally satisfied with your life?
One interesting thing about our culture is that we’re constantly searching for something to fill us up. We want to reach a certain milestone or win some award or make money in order to feel fulfilled. But it’s at that moment when you finally achieve what you set out to do, that your brain will probably think of ten more things you still have to get done. The cycle continues—and happiness stays out of reach—because we’re always thinking about what we haven’t achieved yet.
The first step in getting yourself out of a “grass is greener” mindset is, to be honest with yourself about how you really feel. Are you really happier when you’re working on one project over another? Or is it just easier to think back on that project with fondness because it’s one that’s done? Once you’ve given yourself an honest assessment, you can identify what truly makes you happy.
Happiness and Accomplishments
In conclusion, the key to happiness is not achieving big things. The key here is learning to enjoy the journey. Once we adopt this mindset, accomplishment and happiness will follow.