I know I have experienced surprise in my life as well as disappointment regarding what I thought would make me happy. I'm sure you have experienced this to. The job promotion, meeting a new mate, buying a new house or car, etc. doesn't always make us as happy as we expect it to.
Why is that?
First and foremost, it comes down to choice. You can choose happiness in the face of life's circumstances or despair. You can prepare your mind for things that are expected and unexpected or you can choose to be unprepared.
In her new book, The Myth of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy But Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy But Does, Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about happiness and the fallacies that we all fall into when we think about what should make us happy.
The book is broken down into 3 main sections; Connections (relationships), work and money and looking back (this deals with our past and future).
In a lot of ways the author gives some practical and researched advice on how we can handle certain situations. For instance, what if you don't enjoy parenting as much as you thought you would? What if the spark is gone from your marriage? What if your job doesn't make you as happy as it used to? These are all things that many of us face at some point in our lives.
One of the main points in this book is the concept of hedonic adaptation and how to recognize when this starts to creep into areas of our life. Hedonic adaptation is the concept that no matter how great something is in our lives, a new spouse, job, success, we will eventually take it for granted and our happiness will return to the level that it was at before the significant new life change occurred.
The author gives several tips on how to combat hedonic adaptation in several areas of our lives so that we can enjoy our life experiences at a higher level for a longer period of time.
I couldn't see myself doing all of the suggested exercises that the author suggestions in the book and didn't necessarily agree with all of them. For instance, an exercise called “concretely re-exeperiencing” in the work and money section deals with appreciating your new job by reliving a past job that you hated to keep a certain level of perspective. There is no way that I would ever take the time to do something like nor would I have the desire to.
Overall, the book is about have-do-be vs. be-do have. We all fall into traps where we assume that by having something, that we will be happy. What we realize is that there is nothing in our lives that can make us happy by itself. This book gives very practical and solid advice and how to deal with some of the most important emotional aspects of our lives.