The Secret Formula to Happiness
What determines your level of happiness? The amount of money you have? The number of Facebook followers on your page? Your job title? How fit you are? The quality of your relationships? The answer to this question may seem complex and difficult to evaluate, and countless researchers have tried to define the ultimate formula for happiness.
In fact, the formula to guaranteed happiness (or unhappiness, if you wish) is very simple:
H = R - E
Happiness is the result of Reality minus Expectation
This means that your personal level of happiness is simply the difference between reality as you perceive it and your expectations of how things should be in your life.
There are three important components in this statement.
Happiness is not the result of some complicated process or many prerequisites that need to be met. It is really a function of only two things, which you have control of.
- reality as you perceive it
Many people could argue that they cannot influence reality at any given moment. However, the important point to note here is this: as you perceive it. The same event can be interpreted very differently depending on the mindset of the onlooker.
“Things do not have meaning. We assign meaning to everything.”
Let’s assume a man goes out with his girlfriend. They are in bar and meet some other friends. At one point, the man sees that his girlfriend is speaking to another man who does not belong to their group. They are talking about the football results of the day, but the boyfriend cannot hear it. The boyfriend could now reach some very different conclusions from looking at that scene:
- They are having small talk and there is nothing to be concerned about.
- That guy looks nice; maybe we will have a new friend in our group soon.
- What the f*** is this guy doing chatting up my girlfriend? I’m going to go over there and put an end to this.
- What does she think she is doing? Chatting up this guy and thinking I won’t realize she is going behind my back? Wait until we are home . . .
- I am proud of my girlfriend. She is so attractive that she attracts men everywhere she goes. She’s got me though, and no other guy stands a chance!
The situation was the same, but the meanings associated with the event were very different depending on the mindset of the observer. The happiness level of the man would be very different depending on his perception of the reality and the meaning he associated with it.
- your expectations of how things should be in life
Expectations in this context are not the future goals you want to reach, but what you expect of your current situation and how you would like it to be. Once you know this, there is a very easy way into guaranteed and permanent unhappiness: raise your expectations as high as possible.
Let’s assume a woman says she is happy if she earns two million dollars a year, has a fit runner’s body and is able to run a marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes, and has a lovely, muscular, blond husband and a minimum of three healthy kids. Well, if she earns one million dollars a year, runs a marathon in 3 hours and 40 minutes, has a dark-haired, fit husband, and has two healthy children who are doing absolutely well in school and with their friends, she will be unhappy because this is not what she expects out of life.
On the other hand, you can lower your expectations. If someone says she is happy every day she is able to get on her feet and look down at them because this means she is still alive, she has a very high likelihood of being happy every single day of her life.
Do not get me wrong—I am not advocating having no goals and letting go of your ambitions. As long as you are aware that you need to work and put some effort into reaching these goals and that they are not granted to you, then you are fine. The issue is when you take things for granted and develop a false sense of entitlement. If things, for whatever miraculous reason, do not fall into place automatically or there are obstacles to be overcome, you are on your way to unhappiness and deep inner confusion. It is very important to differentiate between “You can have everything (if you work for it and give your best)” and “You will have everything (given to you without any efforts or resistance whatsoever).”
Now you know the formula to happiness and the influence you (can) have on both parts of the equation. A very good way to improve your personal happiness equation is to trade expectation for appreciation.
Appreciation and gratitude, which are similar to each other, are two of the keys to happiness in your life; appreciation is one of the Essentials of Success. Appreciation is appreciation of yourself, appreciation of others, appreciation of things that are, appreciation of what is to come, and appreciation of what has been. When you look at the second meaning of appreciation, which is an economic term, it means to increase in value, to command a higher price than before.
Appreciation can be applied on any level. It is not just about appreciating big things, like your house or your car; it is about appreciating everything that is around you, down to the smallest detail. You can express appreciation and gratitude for almost anything around you.
Most of us take many things for granted and do not pay attention to all the positive aspects of life. We are driven by everyday events and do not have (or rather do not take) the time to be aware of all the beauty that surrounds us. If you read this book, then you are probably better off than 90 or 95 percent of the world’s population. If we compare the world today to what it was not even 150 years ago, many lives have greatly improved.
We need to relearn to appreciate the small things in life in order to be able to appreciate life on a larger scale. The more you are able to appreciate on a small level, the better you will feel on a larger scale.
Think about all the things in your environment, all your abilities, and all your relationships. What if they were not there anymore? How much do you express appreciation for what you have on a daily level? Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a loss to appreciate what you have.
Your house, your car, your ability to see, your ability to walk, your partner, your friends, the bread you are eating, the chair you are sitting on, the computer, the phone, any object in your vicinity—look at these elements of your life and feel appreciation for the pleasure and benefit they bring to you.
Think about the people in your life, either currently or in the past. Who was an important person to you? With whom did you spend a great deal of time? Who helped you or whom did you help? Who did you learn something from?
Appreciation is a two-step process. The first step is to feel gratitude; the second is to express your gratitude to other people. This is not about a big symbolic thank-you ceremony; rather, it is about the daily thank-yous, smiles, and small offerings of gratitude. Certainly, you can express your gratitude in additional and bigger ways, but the starting point should be the ambition to integrate gratitude into your daily life.
The goal is to reach a prevailing awareness of all the good things surrounding us. In this way, we prime ourselves to look out for and find the good things. The more you do this, the easier it will be to find something worth appreciating. In addition, if you compare yourself to others and find that you are better off, it is important to focus on feeling grateful for your situation.[Taken from PowerStart - How to kick off your day and energize your life / Click here to buy your copy]