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Why Chasing Hits of Happiness is Bad for You (and 3 things you should do instead)

Why Chasing Hits of Happiness is Bad for You

Have you ever achieved a seemingly big goal, only to feel deflated afterwards? Did you wonder why? If we chase the wrong goals, we get only a fleeting hit of happiness as we achieve them. Plenty of people live like this and it’s certainly one way to distract from feeling flat. 

What’s smarter though, is to recognise that feeling of anti-climax as a nudge to change something. Not easy to work out. But well worth it to stop hits of happiness fading fast to flatness. If you can find goals that really mean something to you, you will feel fulfilled and purposeful instead. Feelings that last.


The Difference Between Happiness and Fulfilment

Happiness and fulfilment are very different things. I talk about ‘hits of happiness’ because they are high spikes, the fast fix – the bar of chocolate, the shopping spree, the booze- fuelled night out. All about you and great while it lasts – but short-lived.

Fulfilment is more like the degree, career or business you’ve worked hard at for years; the rich family-life, despite the twists, turns and sticky patches; the longstanding ambition realised, only to reveal fresh energy for another layer of striving. Fulfilment links your past with hopes for the future and is often about other people as well. Fulfilment evolves and endures.

How to Use Negative Emotions as Fuel

There’s so much science telling us how to be happier. We are taught that gratitude is good, using our signature strengths is smart and that mindfulness matters. Research shows positivity can unlock a healthy quota of happiness – if we work at it.

It’s not that I disagree with positive psychology – but there are major problems here. What about those who have persevered with positive thinking but feel flat or dangerously down. Didn’t they work hard enough to get happy?

People need reasons to be happy, not just tools. Research shows that negative events make life more meaningful than positive ones – even when they leave someone stressed and less happy in the moment. How about that!

Our emotions have always come with signposts to serve us. It’s been that way since fear had us run from the sabre-tooth-tiger. So maybe we’re mis-reading signposts? Think about it. Boredom stimulates creative problem-solving. Anxiety helps us avoid failing. Hating our work leads to a career transition.

Often, we need to feel somehow lacking – empty, stuck or unhappy – because it’s the fuel we need to start the engines up and drive away from our crossroads. We don’t need to simply stay ‘positive’.

Here’s how to apply this to your situation:

1- Acknowledge you’re at a crossroads. 

For example, you hate your work but feel stuck. Understand your status quo is only one direction at your crossroads. There are options. What are your other wants and needs?Don’t get bogged down with reality – what do you wish you could do next? If you can’t get near specifics, think of your values instead – those things that matter most to you and make you feel alive when you do things that express them.

2- Be brutally honest about those things holding you back.

For example, you’re certain you want to change your work but so worried you’d end up without enough money you don’t make the change. Name these barriers – responsibilities, fear of failure, fear of success.

3- Now think of these obstacles as if they are on one side of a card.

If you flip it over, you have solutions. Taking the same example – you’re afraid of failing if you leave your job. Could you safeguard against that by creating an escape fund? And could you use the time to make a concrete plan? Now take the first small step.

Here’s What to Watch Out For

We are hard-wired for safety. As you get clearer about your aspirations and closer to understanding the change needed, just know that you will feel growing resistance. Push forwards anyway. If you take action, here’s what will happen. You will recognise the cost of your stuckness is too great. You will get clarity about what’s meaningful to you and what might hold you back. And you will be best-placed to make a plan that aligns what you do with who you are.
So, stop chasing fleeting hits of happiness and strive for fulfilling goals instead.

Now It’s Your Turn

It’s one thing to read these steps and quite another to apply them. What I’ve done for you is put the 3 steps above into a short PDF to help you brainstorm ideas for making your career change. I’ll walk you through the process of going through a career transition, keeping focus on what makes you feel fulfilled and I’ll get you started on one small step to start making change happen. 


The Four-Step Process To Making A Meaningful Career Change


P.S. If you think your friends would like this too, i’d love you to share it.  Thanks.  Warmly, Helen

Helen Hanison

Helen Hanison is the only executive coach bringing a unique blend of marketing savvy and commercial edges to coaching that draws on her background in psychology. She helps seasoned professionals who are stuck at a career crossroads to make a plan aligning work they love with a life they want to lead.

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